Greta Thunberg is Speaking – WILL WE LISTEN?


“Avoiding climate breakdown will require cathedral thinking. We must lay the foundation while we may not know exactly how to build the ceiling.”


Greta Thunberg speaks on accelerating climate change


Before I share Greta’s passionate talk to the UK Parliament, I’ll review the past few months as related to Canada and the climate crises. We’ve had occasions of alarm along with a bit of hope and celebration.

First the bad news. You may have heard how quickly permafrost is beginning to thaw in the uppermost latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere due to global warning. We’ve known of this threat for some time. Now climate scientists are becoming quite concerned  about it’s accelerating development. It’s poised to release vast quantities of carbon into the atmosphere in the forms of CO2 and Methane. This gas that has been locked inside the ice for 1000’s of  years.


Nature Magazine Article Sources Ref. 2 & G. Hugelius et al. Biogeosciences 11, 6573–6593 (2014)



This 2009 photo shows Katey Walter Anthony igniting methane previously trapped under pond ice in Alaska. (Todd Paris/ University of Alaska, Fairbanks)


Furthermore, in parts of British Columbia and all of Vancouver Island we’ve had very little rain and a reduced snowpack. This past winter in the west coast rainforest region an unusual  fern and salal dieback occurred. Salal berries are an important food source for bears who along with salmon are keystone species. Salmon fry have been stranded in drying up river pools as far back as May. In more recent years this event happened later in the summer.


projected BC temperatures image

Historical and projected annual average temperatures in B.C. (1990-2080) 

by Pacific Climate Impact Consortium


World wide in October 2018, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPPC) put out a special interim report with these key messages:

1. Anthropogenic Climate Change is worsening

2. Biodiversity is endangered.

3. Sea-level rise threatens livelihood of low lying areas, deltas, and islands.

4. Reduction of CO2 emissions to limit global warming to 1.5 degree C. is urgently needed.



In Northern Alberta, the wildfire season is already well under way and Southern Albertan cities have already got a brief taste of the unhealthy and smoky skies, likely to worsen this summer. And most communities don’t have a comprehensive forest fire emergency plan as I explained in a previous post Be the Change: The Climate Emergency.


Alberta Wildfire status as of June 17, 2019

Alberta Wildfire status as of June 17, 2019




Beyond the terror and destructiveness of the Alberta and BC wildfires is a broad cognitive dissonance.

Here is a case in point. A  few days ago on June 18 Canada’s Federal Government approved the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion which would be able to move almost 600,000 barrels of oil per day from Alberta to the Port of Burnaby in British Columbia. The previous day the Federal Government declared a national climate emergency joining 623 other jurisdictions previously to do so, including nations such as Scotland and Catalonia in Spain and cities like San Francisco and Vancouver. 

A contradiction indeed.





Now for the good news . . .


Early green party symbol, near Pine Ridge, Dakato  - bruce witzel photo (3)


In April on the east coast of Canada the Green Party became the official opposition in the province of Prince Edward Island. They gained  8 out of 27 seats in the Legislative Assembly with 31% of the popular vote.  This, in a province where the leader of the Greens is a personal friend of the elected Premier. Some might say this is conflict of interest – I believe it bodes well for participative democracy.

Further along in May, a by-election in the west coast port city of Nanaimo brought Paul Manly of the Green Party to become their federal Member of Parliament (MP). He won 37% of the popular vote. His father is a well known United Church Minister and also past MP. 


paul manly and elizabeth may - Green party of Canada photo

Paul Manly campaigning with Green Party leader Elizabeth May – Green Party of Canada photo


For me these are signifiers of a broader social and ecological awareness rising the in the general populace.


The tide is changing.


Seymour Narrows in Johnstone Straight, Vancouver Island - bruce witzel photo


This year Canada has a Federal election on October 20 with a four way race between the ruling Liberals, the Conservatives, the Greens, and the New Democrats (the democratic socialist party). The Greens are campaigning with tenacity to elect many more Members of Parliament and potentially hold the balance of power in the new parliament. Currently the Greens in Canada have 2 MP’s out of the 338 seats.

The bottom line here is this:  the world needs to ACT NOW within a new paradigm, collectively and individually to drastically mitigate the chances of shocking runaway climate change in the not too distant future.



photo from PV Magazine


James Hansen arrested


BC Carbon fee disbursements


Alert Bay Solar Conversion - comliments from BC Hydro Power Smart Program


Finished solar array expansion - June 21-2019 - bruce witzel photo

  CLOUD POWER – our new larger 3.3 kilowatt solar array completely powers our home – even on cloudy days!


Though maybe this is preaching to the choir, I beseech you – raise your voices, even if you don’t like to sing. Or, if you’ve been told by the “powers that be” that you can’t carry a tune – don’t believe them. Discordance is a fact of life and perfect harmony is over-rated. Speak up and speak out.

  Bruce reading at Doug and Maggie's wedding



Now onto Greta Thunberg’s  powerful speech to the UK Parliament from about two months ago. She  clearly and humbly presents herself. We’d all do well to take her to heart and follow her footsteps.

As she says, “I hope my microphone was on. I hope you can all hear me?”  Thanks Greta.


                         ~ Bruce ~


My name is Greta Thunberg. I am 16 years old. I am from Sweden. And I speak on behalf of future generations.

I know many of you don’t want to listen to us – you say we are just children. But we’re only repeating the message of the united climate science.

Many of you appear concerned that we are wasting valuable lesson time, but I assure you we will go back to school the moment you start listening to science and give us a future. Is that really too much to ask?


Greta Thunberg


Greta Thunberg with activists in the school strike for the climate outside Sweden’s Parliament, April 12-2019 – Wikimedia commons


In the year 2030 I will be 26 years old. My little sister Beata will be 23. Just like many of your own children or grandchildren. That is a great age, we have been told. When you have all of your life ahead of you. But I am not so sure it will be that great for us.

I was fortunate to be born in a time and place where everyone told us to dream big; I could become whatever I wanted to. I could live wherever I wanted to. People like me had everything we needed and more. Things our grandparents could not even dream of. We had everything we could ever wish for and yet now we may have nothing.

Now we probably don’t even have a future any more.

Because that future was sold so that a small number of people could make unimaginable amounts of money. It was stolen from us every time you said that the sky was the limit, and that you only live once.

  Health effects


You lied to us. You gave us false hope. You told us that the future was something to look forward to. And the saddest thing is that most children are not even aware of the fate that awaits us. We will not understand it until it’s too late. And yet we are the lucky ones. Those who will be affected the hardest are already suffering the consequences. But their voices are not heard.

Is my microphone on? Can you hear me?

Around the year 2030, 10 years 252 days and 10 hours away from now, we will be in a position where we set off an irreversible chain reaction beyond human control, that will most likely lead to the end of our civilisation as we know it. That is unless in that time, permanent and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society have taken place, including a reduction of CO2 emissions by at least 50%.

And please note that these calculations are depending on inventions that have not yet been invented at scale, inventions that are supposed to clear the atmosphere of astronomical amounts of carbon dioxide.




Furthermore, these calculations do not include unforeseen tipping points and feedback loops like the extremely powerful methane gas escaping from rapidly thawing arctic permafrost.

Nor do these scientific calculations include already locked-in warming hidden by toxic air pollution. Nor the aspect of equity – or climate justice – clearly stated throughout the Paris agreement, which is absolutely necessary to make it work on a global scale.

We must also bear in mind that these are just calculations. Estimations. That means that these “points of no return” may occur a bit sooner or later than 2030. No one can know for sure. We can, however, be certain that they will occur approximately in these timeframes, because these calculations are not opinions or wild guesses.

These projections are backed up by scientific facts, concluded by all nations through the IPCC. Nearly every single major national scientific body around the world unreservedly supports the work and findings of the IPCC.


Cartoon - unknown source


Did you hear what I just said? Is my English OK? Is the microphone on? Because I’m beginning to wonder.

During the last six months I have travelled around Europe for hundreds of hours in trains, electric cars and buses, repeating these life-changing words over and over again. But no one seems to be talking about it, and nothing has changed. In fact, the emissions are still rising.

When I have been travelling around to speak in different countries, I am always offered help to write about the specific climate policies in specific countries. But that is not really necessary. Because the basic problem is the same everywhere. And the basic problem is that basically nothing is being done to halt – or even slow – climate and ecological breakdown, despite all the beautiful words and promises.




The UK is, however, very special. Not only for its mind-blowing historical carbon debt, but also for its current, very creative, carbon accounting.

Since 1990 the UK has achieved a 37% reduction of its territorial CO2 emissions, according to the Global Carbon Project. And that does sound very impressive. But these numbers do not include emissions from aviation, shipping and those associated with imports and exports. If these numbers are included the reduction is around 10% since 1990 – or an an average of 0.4% a year, according to Tyndall Manchester.
And the main reason for this reduction is not a consequence of climate policies, but rather a 2001 EU directive on air quality that essentially forced the UK to close down its very old and extremely dirty coal power plants and replace them with less dirty gas power stations. And switching from one disastrous energy source to a slightly less disastrous one will of course result in a lowering of emissions.

But perhaps the most dangerous misconception about the climate crisis is that we have to “lower” our emissions. Because that is far from enough. Our emissions have to stop if we are to stay below 1.5-2C of warming. The “lowering of emissions” is of course necessary but it is only the beginning of a fast process that must lead to a stop within a couple of decades, or less. And by “stop” I mean net zero – and then quickly on to negative figures. That rules out most of today’s politics.


Global wartming projections


The fact that we are speaking of “lowering” instead of “stopping” emissions is perhaps the greatest force behind the continuing business as usual. The UK’s active current support of new exploitation of fossil fuels – for example, the UK shale gas fracking industry, the expansion of its North Sea oil and gas fields, the expansion of airports as well as the planning permission for a brand new coal mine – is beyond absurd.

This ongoing irresponsible behaviour will no doubt be remembered in history as one of the greatest failures of humankind.

People always tell me and the other millions of school strikers that we should be proud of ourselves for what we have accomplished. But the only thing that we need to look at is the emission curve. And I’m sorry, but it’s still rising. That curve is the only thing we should look at.



Sea level rises in Indonesia – Getty Images


Every time we make a decision we should ask ourselves; how will this decision affect that curve? We should no longer measure our wealth and success in the graph that shows economic growth, but in the curve that shows the emissions of greenhouse gases. We should no longer only ask: “Have we got enough money to go through with this?” but also: “Have we got enough of the carbon budget to spare to go through with this?” That should and must become the centre of our new currency.

Many people say that we don’t have any solutions to the climate crisis. And they are right. Because how could we? How do you “solve” the greatest crisis that humanity has ever faced? How do you “solve” a war? How do you “solve” going to the moon for the first time? How do you “solve” inventing new inventions?


wind to surpass hydro in the US

Wind Power surpasses Hydro Power – source, US Energy Information Administration


The climate crisis is both the easiest and the hardest issue we have ever faced. The easiest because we know what we must do. We must stop the emissions of greenhouse gases. The hardest because our current economics are still totally dependent on burning fossil fuels, and thereby destroying ecosystems in order to create everlasting economic growth.


“So, exactly how do we solve that?” you ask us – the schoolchildren striking for the climate.

And we say: “No one knows for sure. But we have to stop burning fossil fuels and restore nature and many other things that we may not have quite figured out yet.”

Then you say: “That’s not an answer!”

So we say: “We have to start treating the crisis like a crisis – and act even if we don’t have all the solutions.”

“That’s still not an answer,” you say.

Then we start talking about circular economy and rewilding nature and the need for a just transition. Then you don’t understand what we are talking about.




We say that all those solutions needed are not known to anyone and therefore we must unite behind the science and find them together along the way. But you do not listen to that. Because those answers are for solving a crisis that most of you don’t even fully understand. Or don’t want to understand.

You don’t listen to the science because you are only interested in solutions that will enable you to carry on like before. Like now. And those answers don’t exist any more. Because you did not act in time.

Avoiding climate breakdown will require cathedral thinking. We must lay the foundation while we may not know exactly how to build the ceiling.


Bruce bracing the trusses for Grahamls shed


Sometimes we just simply have to find a way. The moment we decide to fulfil something, we can do anything. And I’m sure that the moment we start behaving as if we were in an emergency, we can avoid climate and ecological catastrophe. Humans are very adaptable: we can still fix this. But the opportunity to do so will not last for long. We must start today. We have no more excuses.

We children are not sacrificing our education and our childhood for you to tell us what you consider is politically possible in the society that you have created. We have not taken to the streets for you to take selfies with us, and tell us that you really admire what we do.

We children are doing this to wake the adults up. We children are doing this for you to put your differences aside and start acting as you would in a crisis. We children are doing this because we want our hopes and dreams back.

I hope my microphone was on. I hope you could all hear me.


Greta Thunberg – April 23, 2019, speaking to the UK Parliament


P.S. – Greta shouldn’t need to beg to us.

Extinction rebellion photo by jana_eriksson-6849_(45877429622)

photo by Jana Erikson of Extinction Rebellion

15 thoughts on “Greta Thunberg is Speaking – WILL WE LISTEN?

  1. Wow – absolutely right on Priscilla. Just today at a Green Party open meeting in my local community, our candidate pointed out how in WW2 Churchill thought of the box to do the impossible in evacuating troops trapped at Dunkirk. He sent tens of 1000’s of tiny fishing boats and such across the English Channel under the cover of darkness. Almost all the soldiers were saved. It’s time we think like that. It can happen!

    I love Greta’s reference to “Cathedral Thinking.” Shows that we don’t know all the answers, true, though if we only start building the change big and beautiful, we’ll figure it out as we go. If we don’t even start, we’re cap-put. I do believe we’ve started.

  2. thank you for this impassioned plea to the choir and the audience, Bruce,
    from scientists, leaders, and concerned citizens.
    if only the media was controlled by those
    who care for mother earth and the future of its inhabitants.
    it’s been a crime not having the state of the earth as headlines, daily.
    climate change doesn’t seem so popular even here on wp.
    Greta makes me smile as a caring young woman
    with the drive to inspire the young to take notice
    and take action so that a future is possible for them.
    may your day be filled with happiness 🙂

    • Ah… thanks for you encouragement David. Greta is an amazing young woman.

      Here and now, the green momentum I speak of is growing. I hope you don’t mind a play by play 🙂

      The local Green candidate, Mark de Bruijn is getting a good head start at canvassing and having meetings all week in the North part of our region. He has a realistic possibility of becoming our next MP in October. A sort of groundswell is happening. Of all the 20 or so people we saw today, 3 said outright they would vote green. In the non partisan polling site created by a University of McGill astrophysicist, the weekly Sunday update shows in our North Island-Powell River Riding, the Greens at 23.1% and rising, the Conservatives holding steady at 27%, the NDP (incumbent) at 28.4% and the Liberals (ruling government) at 18%. We (the Greens) are working hard to bring participatory democracy to the fore.

      To give you the thumbs up, all’s well with Francis – she’s currently enjoying 3 or 4 weeks away visiting her 2 children and she’ll soon be back to the lake along with 2 grandkids. They’ll be here for the first 3 weeks summer.

      My day IS indeed filled with happiness and I thank you for your part in that my dear Buddhist friend. May you stay well.

      Peace and love, Bruce

      • wonderful knowing of the good news
        for Canada, Francis (i loved her books), grandchildren & you. My life is pleasant. I’ll be visiting a few days in Bellingham next month for a memorial. Breathing that cool northern air I’ll think of you all 🙂

      • Gee David….Bellingham is so close. Do you have time to cross over and up the island to the cabin? Although i haven’t talked it over with Francis, I would love to see you and I believe she would too… It’ll bee too many bodies here from July 14 to 24th, but before or after that it could be wonderful to stay here with us for a few days. Think about it, and if you are able to travel a bit further I’ll broach it with Francis. We both are learning (bit by bit) to be open to the wonderful spontaneities that come upon in life. Maybe we could sing together… Cheers.

      • thank you for the thoughtful suggestion, Bruce. there’s potential in visiting before the 14th. can you give me an idea of the travel necessary to get to your island location? perhaps an email or contact message. smiles, david 🙂

      • Hi David – I’m about to head to work and this evening I will email you… I’m quite certain I have your contact info. Until then, peace my brother…. Bruce

  3. If we pride ourselves on our big brains, on our ability to put astronauts in space and send research tools to Jupiter, it stands to reason that we could be doing a LOT more about this problem. A very simple thought. I think the inability to let that thought in comes from an unwillingness to change…habits, lifestyle, expectations. That’s the obstacle: dismantling the culture of privilege and the resistance to sacrifice. But people can be taught to change, given leadership and motivation. Look at all the things that were expected during WWII, like rationing and recycling and women in the workforce. Huge changes that many people made willingly. It could happen.

    • I posted this comment to you incorrectly last week in the main stream Priscilla…. copy and pasted it here and now…

      Wow – absolutely right on Priscilla. Just today at a Green Party open meeting in my local community, our candidate pointed out how in WW2 Churchill thought of the box to do the impossible in evacuating troops trapped at Dunkirk. He sent tens of 1000’s of tiny fishing boats and such across the English Channel under the cover of darkness. Almost all the soldiers were saved. It’s time we think and do things like that. It can happen!

      I love Greta’s reference to “Cathedral Thinking.” Shows that we don’t know all the answers, true, though if we only start building the change big and beautiful, we’ll figure it out as we go. If we don’t even start, we’re cap-put. I do believe we’ve started.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: