The one good thing about Earth Day being digital this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic? Sought-after speakers can easily make “appearances” on various Earth Day livestreams without having to travel. And on this 50th anniversary of the first Earth Day, the person who many viewers are most excited to hear from is Greta Thunberg, the de facto leader of the climate movement.
On Wednesday, the 17-year-old activist virtually sat down for a conversation with Johan Rockström, director of the Potsdam Institute. Greta dialed in from the Nobel Prize Museum in Stockholm, while presumably following all the necessary coronavirus precautions (even though the teenager and her father believe they both already had the virus).
During the livestream, Greta explained that because everything has changed so much during the COVID-19 pandemic, we essentially need to come up with a new plan for protecting the planet in the future.
“Whether we like it or not, the world has changed,” Greta said in a livestream, as reported by The Guardian. “It looks completely different now from how it did a few months ago. It may never look the same again. We have to choose a new way forward.”
Greta also noted the way society has quickly crumbled in response to the pandemic, and how that should provide a roadmap for fighting the climate emergency.
“If the coronavirus crisis has shown us one thing, it is that our society is not sustainable,” Greta continued, as per The Guardian. “If one single virus can destroy economies in a couple of weeks, it shows we are not thinking long-term and taking risks into account.”
Additionally, Greta pointed out the ways the COVID-19 pandemic mirrors the climate crisis, noting why, in turn, the human response to the climate emergency should mirror our response to the coronavirus crisis.
“As in any crisis, it’s always important, essential, that we listen to the science, and to the experts,” Greta said in the livestream. “That goes for all crises, whether it’s the corona crisis or whether it’s the climate crisis, which of course is still ongoing and is not slowing down, even in times like these ... We need to tackle both the corona pandemic, this crisis, at the same time as we tackle climate and environmental emergency.”
Greta also shared a message with her Twitter followers on Earth Day, expressing a similar message: We need to unite behind the science.
“Every day is #EarthDay. The changes needed to safeguard future living conditions for all species won’t come from governments or businesses,” Greta tweeted. “It will come from the best available science and public opinion. So it’s up to us. Spread the science. #unitebehindthescience.”
Greta has expressed the sentiment that we need to unite behind the science on many occasions. Another turn of phrase she has popularized in her speeches is “our house is on fire.” And in honor of Earth Day, Fridays for Future, the movement she founded to organize school strikes for the climate, released a commercial bringing that idea to life.
In the ad, unveiled this week, a family of four goes through a typical morning routine — brushing their teeth, eating breakfast, chit-chatting — all while ignoring the fact that their house is literally on fire. “Our house is on fire. React,” the ad states at the end. “Fight against climate change.”