Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg said on Friday she does not understand why grown-ups and world leaders would mock children and teens for acting on science, responding to jibes about her campaign as students conducted a second wave of global protests demanding action on climate change.
When asked about US President Donald Trump and others who have mocked her, the 16-year-old activist said they likely feel their world view and interests are being threatened by the climate activism of herself and others.
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“That we should take as compliment that we are having so much impact that people want to silence us,” she said at a rally in Montreal after meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. “We’ve become too loud for people to handle, so people want to silence us.”
The youth climate movement has drawn criticism from some who accuse the students of overreacting and say they would be better off going to school. In an apparent sarcastic jibe at Thunberg this week following her haranguing of world leaders, Trump tweeted: “She seems like a very happy young girl looking forward to a bright and wonderful future. So nice to see!”
Instead of addressing Trump by name, she said Friday that she did not “understand why grown-ups would choose to mock children and teenagers for just communicating and acting on the science when they could do something good instead”.
Her comments came as students in Italy symbolically torched a replica of planet Earth, one of many protests as part of the climate strikes sparked by the Swedish teen. Some participants echoed the anger she expressed this week at a UN summit in New York.
“How dare you!” read one banner at a rally in Italy’s financial hub of Milan, where tens of thousands took to the streets and later gathered around a giant globe to watch it go up in flames.
More than 100,000 people also rallied in Rome, where protesters held up signs with slogans such as “Change the system, not the climate” or just the word “Future.”
Fears about the impact of global warming on younger generation s drew fresh protests in India, Spain, Portugal, Sweden, Finland and the Netherlands, a week after hundreds of thousands rallied worldwide in the run-up to the UN summit.
In New Zealand, students marched on Parliament in Wellington, staging one of the largest protests ever held in that capital.
In Berlin, activists from the Fridays for Future group braved persistent rain to denounce a package of measures that the German government recently agreed on to cut the country’s greenhouse gas emissions. Experts say the proposal falls far short of what’s needed if the world’s sixth-biggest emitter is to meet the goals of the landmark 2015 Paris climate accord.
Actor Javier Bardem joined dozens of young people in San Sebastian in one of several demonstrations and rallies held across Spain on Friday morning in advance of evening demonstrations in the major cities where big crowds are expected, especially in Madrid and Barcelona. Bardem was promoting a documentary he worked on with Greenpeace.
In Austria, organisers said 150,000 people participated, while the local APA news agency said the number was 65,000.
In Canada, Thunberg met with Trudeau, who praised her activism on climate change.
“She is the voice of a generation, of young people who are calling on their leaders to do more and do better,” Trudeau said. “And I am listening.”
Trudeau, who is in the middle of an election campaign, announced a plan to plant two billion trees over the next decade.
Thunberg, however, indicated that she expects more, even of leaders who welcome the movement. Scientists this week issued new dire warnings about the consequences of rising temperatures on the world’s oceans and cold regions.
“He (Trudeau) is, of course, obviously not doing enough, but this is just a huge problem, this is a system that is wrong,” she said. “My message to all the politicians is the same: Just listen and act on the science.”
Thunberg told a crowd in Montreal it was moving to see people of all generations so passionate for a cause.
“I am very excited to be here and it is going to be very much fun today to once again stand together, people from all around the world for one common cause. That is very empowering,” she said.