'Act. Do something': AOC & Greta Thunberg talk youth, climate and hope

‘Act. Do something’: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez & Greta Thunberg talk activism, climate and hope

greta thunberg and AOC
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) and Greta Thunberg are visible, powerful and passionate, particularly on the subject of climate. The pair, having never met before and living on different continents,  recently sat down via Skype for a conversation about climate change.

They have a lot in common. They are both remarkably young for the impact they have made in politics and as climate campaigners. Both are accustomed to being dismissed because of their age.

At 29, AOC is the youngest congresswoman in US history. She’s the Democratic Representative for New York’s 14th congressional district and her election to Congress, defeating incumbent Joe Crowley in the 2018 mid-term elections, was a huge upset to the political establishment.

Climate change activist and 16-year-old Swedish school student Greta Thunberg is the young woman behind the global movement of student activism for climate action. She’s made waves with her protests and speeches against political inaction on the climate and has led thousands of students around the world to strike for the climate.

In February, AOC submitted the Green New Deal to the House of Representatives in the US. It calls for net zero greenhouse gases within the next decade and a complete transition from fossil fuels. It was defeated in the Senate by Republicans, however it has garnered support from a few Democratic presidential candidates.

During their Skype conversation, AOC and Thunberg discussed the nature of the climate emergency, tactics they use to be successful as activists and the reality of being dismissed due to their age.

Here’s a brief snippet of their conversation. 

You can read their full chat here.

AOC:

When I was first running [for office], people often mocked me as a child. I’m much older than you! But I was still very young for someone who was running for such a powerful seat. People would say, “But don’t you know this is how it’s always been done? He has so much money, and power. There’s no reason you should challenge someone in your own party – we should challenge people in other parties.”

From there I learned that hope is not something that you have. Hope is something that you create, with your actions. Hope is something you have to manifest into the world, and once one person has hope, it can be contagious. Other people start acting in a way that has more hope.

GT:

Yeah. I know so many people who feel hopeless, and they ask me, “What should I do?” And I say: “Act. Do something.” Because that is the best medicine against sadness and depression. I remember the first day I was school-striking outside the Swedish parliament, I felt so alone, because everyone went straight past, no one even looked at me. But at the same time I was hopeful.

 

AOC:

One of the things I’m interested in hearing from you is that often people say, “Don’t politicise young people.” It’s almost a taboo. That to have someone as young as you coming out in favour of political positions is manipulative or wrong. I find it very condescending, as though, especially in this day and age with the access to information we have, you can’t form your own opinions and advocate for yourself. I’m interested in how you approach that – if anyone brings that up with you?

GT:

That happens all the time. That’s basically all I hear. The most common criticism I get is that I’m being manipulated and you shouldn’t use children in political ways, because that is abuse, and I can’t think for myself and so on. And I think that is so annoying! I’m also allowed to have a say – why shouldn’t I be able to form my own opinion and try to change people’s minds?

But I’m sure you hear that a lot, too; that you’re too young and too inexperienced. When I see all the hate you receive for that, I honestly can’t believe how you manage to stay so strong.

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