Opinion: By ignoring the young, we have failed them

Thunberg at the UN General Assembly source: Getty

The United Nations Climate Week is underway from September 24-30, featuring 150 events coinciding with the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

Teen Climate Activist Greta Thunberg addressed the UN with an impassioned speech which has since sparked controversy over the integrity of media commentary surrounding Thunberg.

OPINION: Critics and supporters alike have made a battleground out of Thunberg's emotional delivery as well as highlighting her Aspergers as though it is relevant to her message or circumstances.

Greta is not alone, across the world and here in New Zealand there is an upswell of young student activists taking Climate Strike action and the 'Make it 16' campaign is going to the high court.

But all of the controversy, the commentary, the coverage, and the criticism of the young is neglecting to address a major issue.

Why are 16-year-olds doing this?

Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old is telling the United Nations, and by extension the world that we have betrayed them. Here in New Zealand 16-year-olds are asking for the voting age to be lowered before it is too late.


When I was 16 years old if I was worried or scared the adults around me would ease my mind. They would take my concerns seriously and, where needed, take on my burdens so I could just be 16.

I always believed my elders, and society as a whole, had our collective best interests at heart. When I was 16 I was making bad decisions and falling in love every other week just like everyone else. That was not only allowed but expected. 

These 16-year-olds are expected to do the same but they can't because we have failed them. Their concerns are ignored by many.

They are taught to believe science, but are belittled for trusting scientific evidence.

Their age is used against them when they try to engage with any level of politics.

If someone had truly championed Greta’s concerns she wouldn’t have needed to. Greta and all the other 16-year-old are not trying to take over the world or grow up too soon.

We have lost their confidence so spectacularly that we have forced them to grow up.

We have lost their trust so completely that we are no longer permitted to champion their causes. We have failed so totally in our duty to the next generation that 16-year-olds are stepping up.

Our duty was to guard them, to ease their concerns, to carry their burdens like those before did for us. To allow them to be free of the world’s concerns as long as possible.

But we have failed them.

Anand Hira is Assistant Operations Manager for Magic Talk