Book Review: No One is Too Small to Make a Difference by Greta Thunberg

By Tilly Powell, First Year Geography

It’s no secret that Greta Thunberg is one of the youngest yet most influential women of this generation, and her extreme passion for our planet and how we take care of it has made a significant difference to the way in which people view the climate change crisis. At only eighteen, Thunberg has greatly impacted climate politics, and her 2019 book, No One is Too Small to Make a Difference, displays some of her incredible words and powerful questions she has raised about the climate crisis, and why it is not being treated as a crisis. 

The book is a collection of passionate speeches Thunberg has delivered at various climate rallies across the globe in significant cities such as London, Stockholm, and Washington D.C. Each speech made by Thunberg addresses the climate emergency we are currently facing, and she asks many bold and dynamic questions to political leaders and influencers as to why nothing is being done to mitigate the impacts of climate change. 

“Why are there no rules and laws about fossil fuel emissions, only aims and targets?”

The first few chapters of the book, comprising of Thunberg’s speeches from London, Katowice, and Davos, convey Thunberg’s rightful confusion as to why nothing is being done to stop climate change. Why are there no rules and laws about fossil fuel emissions, only aims and targets? Thunberg expresses her complete astonishment towards political leaders calling this emergency a “climate crisis”, but how can we call it a “crisis” and not actively do anything to stop it? Many people express their concern for the future of our planet due to climate change, yet few seem to understand just how serious this emergency is, and that there is so much more that must be done.

In her inspirational speech entitled “Unpopular”, delivered to the public at the UN Climate Change Conference in Katowice, Poland in 2018, Thunberg describes how it is the large, wealthy corporations and companies which are to blame for the large amounts of fossil fuels being emitted to our atmosphere every day; Thunberg expresses just how cruel this is on the poorer nations, as they will face the most severe impacts of climate change, yet they were not the ones who initially contributed to it. Thunberg states that “We are about to sacrifice our civilisation for the opportunity of a very small number of people to continue to make enormous amounts of money. We are about to sacrifice the biosphere so that rich people in countries like mine can live in luxury. But it is the sufferings of the many which pay for the luxuries of the few” (Thunberg, p.13, 2019). This alone shows the great injustice of the world we live in, and just how absurd it is that we are sacrificing our children’s futures purely so that a few people can become unnecessarily richer. 

Markus Spiske //Unsplash

Thunberg’s repeated use of the collective pronoun “we” in her statement shown above displays her fascinating mindset towards the climate crisis. Yes, these large companies may be to blame, but it is “we” as humans who are sacrificing our lives and futures. Therefore, Thunberg believes that humans as a whole must work together to mitigate climate change and its impacts. In this speech, Thunberg asks why no one is standing up and taking action to prevent climate change, and she expresses that this is simply due to popularity. Politicians, leaders, and influencers are too afraid to express the importance of preventing the climate crisis to their supporters, as they assume it will bring unpopularity and a loss of support. How is it possible that we are living in an emergency, a real climate crisis, yet people who have the opportunity to help are far more concerned about their popularity than the future of our planet? The climate crisis has never been treated as a crisis. 

“How is it possible that we are living in an emergency, a real climate crisis, yet people who have the opportunity to help are far more concerned about their popularity than the future of our planet?”

In January of 2019, Thunberg gave a speech famously entitled “Our House is On Fire” at the World Economic Forum in Davos, and within this fascinating speech Thunberg speaks of the idea of how climate change is black or white. She begins this part of her speech by stating that “We have to stop our emissions of greenhouse gases. And either we do that or we don’t. You say that nothing in life is black or white. But that is a lie. A very dangerous lie” (Thunberg, p.19, 2019). Thunberg’s analogy of climate change as “black or white” shows that by humanity not doing anything to prevent the climate crisis, we are simply giving up our planet and our future, as we are not stopping our greenhouse gas emissions. Thunberg goes on to say that “There are no grey areas when it comes to survival” (Thunberg, p.20, 2019). The powerful and crucial message Thunberg is delivering is that climate change is not inevitable, we have a choice in the matter: “Either we choose to go on as a civilisation or we don’t” (Thunberg, p.19, 2019). However, if we do not start to take action soon, we will run out of time and the choice is no longer ours. Our future is black or white. 

Crowds gather on College Green, Bristol to see Great Thunberg speak in February 2020 // Photo courtesy of Noah Bouchier

Thunberg expresses the vast amounts of hate she receives in regard to her protests and strikes in her speech entitled “I’m Too Young to Do This” in Stockholm, 2019 at Facebook. The majority of this hate and harassment Thunberg receives is due to the fact that she is so young, and no one wants to listen to or be outsmarted by a child. An article analysing how the media speak of Thunberg by Jieun Jung, Peter Petkanic, Dongyan Nan and Jang Hyun Kim  highlights the contrasting words written about her online, characterised by greatly conflicting views of Thunberg and her work on the climate crisis. Jung et al write that in some positive online tweets written about Thunberg, she is described as a “young woman”, and people would often wish her “good luck” with her future in helping to mitigate climate change.

“This emergency is so severe that children and young people are having to fight for their futures, as the older generations and political leaders are not.”

Whereas, in many negative tweets in which people expressed their views on Thunberg, she is described as a “child” and a “little girl”, and instead of being praised for her influential work and wished luck, she is told to “go back to school” (Jung et al, 2020). This article shows the conflicting views of the public, comparing those who celebrate Thunberg for standing up for the importance of our climate, and those who are clearly too stubborn and jealous of her intelligence to admit that she is right, and therefore they insult and belittle her. In her 2019 speech in Stockholm, Thunberg admits that she, too, agrees that she is too young to be doing this job. However, she has no choice: “We children shouldn’t have to do this. But since almost no one is doing anything, and our very future is at risk, we feel like we have to continue” (Thunberg, p.31, 2019). Thunberg’s words put the climate crisis into perspective, as they demonstrate that this emergency is so severe that children and young people are having to fight for their futures, as the older generations and political leaders are not. 

Greta Thunberg’s No One is Too Small to Make a Difference is a must-read as it is crucial that we understand the true extent of the climate crisis we are facing. This book significantly widens perspectives on the climate emergency and shows Thunberg’s incredibly passionate words as she begs world leaders and politicians to discard their selfishness for their popularity and do what must be done to save our planet and the future of our civilisation. “Either we do that or we don’t […] That is as black and white as it gets” (Thunberg, p.19, 2019).

References 

Thunberg, G No One is Too Small to Make a Difference, 2019

Jung, J, Kim, J, Nan, D, Petkanic, P When a Girl Awakened the World: A User and Social Message Analysis of Greta Thunberg, 2020


No One is Too Small To Make a Difference by Greta Thunberg is available at https://uk.bookshop.org/books/no-one-is-too-small-to-make-a-difference-illustrated-edition/9780241453445 Penguin Allen Lane.

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