‘It’s time for us to listen to the very young’


Published: 9/11/2019 9:05:44 AM

That bombing in Birmingham, Alabama, 1963… I was 11, the girls killed were the same age. It’s a before and after moment for me, before that I had an innocence about the world, after, I knew it wasn’t a safe place. I had already noticed that my family wasn’t safe, but I had some notions about liberty and justice, some sense that I could trust the bigger world to carry on.

In 1963 I learned that I had a mission to fight for peace and justice. It wasn’t going to be the other guy, it was me. We have a girl named Greta, now. When she was 11, she started to learn about climate change. Her autism and ADHD gave her amazing power to focus for long hours of study.

First she learned about the significance of the problem, then she looked at what was being done to find solutions. She was appalled. The adults weren’t doing anything. A few years later, in an address to the UN at 15 years old, she began “you say you love your children above all else.” She was on fire in a solemn, dignified stance that went way beyond the scope of her incredibly young age. She quietly demanded that we regard this situation as an emergency, not as something we can afford to put aside until a more convenient time.

It’s time for us to listen to the very young. They can grasp large and complex world problems with a clarity that cuts through all of the procrastination of adults.

Next month there will be a global student strike for climate action. Greta’s message has power. We recently lost an elder peace activist. Our beloved Frances Crowe, at 100 years old was able to practice her peace activism for 74 years. As a young person, her moral outrage at the bombing of Hiroshima catapulted her from the safety of ironing placemats to the immediate search for other like-minded people with whom she could organize and fight.

We need our young people now, with their fresh outrage and quick creative, clear minds to lead us. It’s their future that stares down the barrel of a smoking gun.

Cheryl Fox is a resident of Turners Falls.

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