Where I Stand:

Real lessons from a real-life Pippi Longstocking


Eduardo Munoz Alvarez / AP

Swedish teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg arrives to the podium to speak as she takes part during the Climate Strike, Friday, Sept. 20, 2019 in New York. Tens of thousands of protesters joined rallies on Friday as a day of worldwide demonstrations calling for action against climate change began ahead of a U.N. summit in New York.

Sweden has sent the world a real-life Pippi Longstocking.

I am not sure about the current generation, but back in the day a freckle-faced, pig-tailed young Swedish girl captured the imagination of American children with her super-human strength, her imaginative exploits and her “ability to make fun of unreasonable adults, especially if they were pompous and condescending.”

Pippi was one of my daughter’s favorite characters, so I took great delight this past week when the 21st-century, real-life version of Pippi became a favorite of mine — practically overnight.

There is, as there always is, a joke going around the internet that centers on an older person at the checkout counter of a grocery store. The young person behind the counter tells the elderly woman that she should bring her own grocery bag because plastic bags are bad for the environment. That she should get into “the green thing.”

Since my lifetime has practically spanned the beginning of the technological revolution to the present, I understood full well the grocery patron’s response to the young person’s seemingly know-it-all put-down of the older woman’s lack of understanding of the “green thing.”

In short, the person who had reached senior status proceeded to explain that in her day people washed and rewashed diapers — they didn’t throw them away to that place where plastic goes; every day they had milk delivered in bottles that were picked up, sterilized and used again — not sold in plastic cartons to, once again, go to that place where plastic goes; they had one tiny television that barely used a watt to entertain an entire household, not had a house full of televisions that used electricity as if it grew on trees and burned fossil fuels with reckless abandon; they walked up flights of stairs rather than use escalators and elevators that, yes, burned more energy; they used solar and wind power to dry clothes on a line rather than power-guzzling dryers that people use today; and, well, you get the picture my generation was trying to convey in a humorous way.

The fact of the matter is that for all the technological advances the last couple of generations have made to make all of our lives easier, it has come at a cost.

The price is global climate change.

And today’s youths are the people who will pay the heaviest price for my generation’s refusal to accept the higher cost for the comforts we have been blessed to enjoy. And that is no joking matter.

Enter the Swedish heroine, Pippi Longstocking, the real life version of whom is a 16-year-old girl named Greta Thunberg. Greta has taken this world by storm by organizing teens the world over, speaking truth to the powers that be who refuse to acknowledge the science of climate change and inspiring young people everywhere to find their own voices when it comes to standing up against the insanity of destroying the planet by our over-reliance on burning fossil fuels in the name of progress.

While she has gained international recognition since she was a 15-year-old speaking out against the outrage of doing nothing, she burst onto the American scene in a most dramatic way this past week when she testified before Congress in a hearing on climate change.

Greta told elected leaders of America that she didn’t have prepared testimony. Instead she referred to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s special report on global warming. That report concluded that the Earth has warmed 1.5 degrees Celsius just since the dawn of the Industrial Age.

I am not quite certain what that all means except I do understand that every credible scientist agrees it is not good for children and other living things on this planet. We are out of time to do something about it so, instead, we just talk.

And that is why Greta came to the United States. She insisted that the congressional representatives not listen to her but read the report and listen to science.

“I am submitting this report as my testimony because I don’t want you to listen to me. I want you to listen to the scientists,“ she said. “And I want you to unite behind the science. And then I want you to take real action.”

What a novel concept. Asking the adults in society to do what adults are supposed to do for their children: protect them, secure them and provide a world for them to live in when it is their turn.

Listening to Greta was like watching Pippi handle adults who were “pompous and condescending.” It was fun.

You would do well to look up this young lady and learn about her life. She is inspirational and, I hope, transformational. And she is like so many young people in this country who are preparing to come into their own.

Perhaps as early as 2020. I can hardly wait.

Brian Greenspun is editor, publisher and owner of the Sun.