Greta Thunberg, a Swedish climate change activist, brought European Union lawmakers to their feet in applause on Tuesday during an EU Environment, Public Health and Food Safety Committee meeting in Strasbourg, France.
“My name is Greta Thunberg, I am 16 years old, I come from Sweden and I want you to panic,” Thunberg began her speech in front of the standing-room-only meeting, which was open to all members of the European Parliament.
“I want you to act as if the house was on fire,” she continued. “I have said those words before, and a lot of people have explained why that is a bad idea. A great number of politicians have told me that panic never leads to anything good. And I agree, to panic unless you have to is a terrible idea. But when your house is on fire and you want to keep your house from burning to the ground, then that does require some level of panic.”
Thunberg recently rose to fame after creating the school strike movement, aptly named #FridaysForFuture, in which thousands of students walk out of school every Friday to urge politicians to take action against global warming. The 16-year-old first began striking last August by herself. Eight months later, thousands of students from over 70 countries have joined in on the #FridaysForFuture movement. Last month, she was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.
“We are in the midst of the sixth mass extinction,” Thunberg said.
“The extinction rate is up to 10,000 times faster than what is considered normal, with up to 200 species becoming extinct every single day,” she continued as she became visibly emotional. “Erosion of fertile topsoil, deforestation of our great forest, toxic air solution, lost of insects and wildlife, the acidification of our oceans. These are all disastrous trends being accelerated by a way of life that we, here in our financially fortunate part of the world, see as our right to simply carry on.”
In her usual blunt fashion, Thunberg did not shy away from calling out greedy politicians and other powerful figures reticent to fight against climate change. She also shamed British lawmakers who are too busy dealing with Brexit to address the pressing issues of global warming.
“Our house is falling apart, and our leaders need to start acting accordingly. Because at the moment they are not,” she said. “If our house was falling apart, you wouldn’t hold three emergency Brexit summits and no emergency summit regarding the breakdown of the climate and environment.”
The room erupted with applause after Thunberg’s Brexit comment, with many giving her a standing ovation.
“Well, our house is falling apart. And we are rapidly running out of time. And yet basically nothing is happening. Everyone and everything needs to change so why waste precious time arguing about what and who needs to change first,” she added. “Everyone and everything has to change but the bigger your platform, the bigger your responsibility. The bigger your carbon footprint, the bigger your moral duty.”