As she rose to prominence on the global stage, the biggest criticisms Greta Thunberg faced were about her age. Many argued that because she was young, she was “uneducated” and “didn’t understand the world” enough to have a valid opinion or argument. She was branded as simply “too ambitious for her age,” and critics thought she didn’t deserve to become one of the most influential environmentalists of the 21st century. The further I read into the backlash that she faced, the more I found that this is a pattern faced by other young activists. Many young people often get pushed aside and excluded from decisions about the world they are growing up in. This led me to a question: Can a person really be too young to be an environmental activist?
The answer to this question is simple: No. Despite what others might say, we’re never too young to learn about the world around us and let our voices be heard. Every day, we fill our minds with facts and figures about the most influential people in history. But there is nothing that says we cannot become the people we read about. As teenagers and young adults, if we can comprehend William Shakespeare and Henry Thoreau, we can understand the Paris Agreement. It is natural for our young minds to want to learn about the world around us, and it’s incredibly important that we learn how to articulate our own opinions and form our own knowledge. However, when we choose to speak out or even do our own research, we’re faced with backlash purely based on our age. Are we being too optimistic? Are our ideas too ambitious?
The answer is again no. New minds have the capacity to think up new ideas — ideas that might ultimately decide the fate of our planet. Yes, younger generations might seem overly ambitious and eager for radical change, but this energy is exactly what the world needs. The optimism of the younger generation is something that is necessary when it comes to changing the future. Young activists hold an ambition many lose as they grow older. Rather than suppressing it, leaders should harness this energy and listen to us.
The truth is, it’s never too early to become an environmentalist or social activist. The ideas and mentalities of different age groups may not just be something that the world wants but something the world needs. As you’re fighting for a healthier planet, don’t let anyone tell you that you’re too young, too ambitious, too naive. There is no such thing.