Their respective recent speeches, among the most poignant, eye opening and important we have heard, took place at the 2018 United Nations (UN) Climate Change Conference (COP 24) in Katowice, Poland. The kind of generation defining speeches that our grandchildren may sadly watch back in the next century and wonder what went wrong and why these wise words weren’t heeded.

One speech was delivered by a young Swedish lady, aged just 15. The other by a man (or living legend) renowned and respected worldwide and still going strong at 92.

In his no holds barred address at the United Nations, Attenborough explained, “Right now we are facing a man made disaster of global scale, our greatest threat in thousands of years: climate change. If we don’t take action, the collapse of our civilisations and the extinction of much of the natural world is on the horizon.”

Turning to world leaders, he proclaimed that the future lies firmly in their hands but that “time is running out.”

You can watch Sir David Attenborough’s speech at the United Nations in full here.

In her own UN speech, Thunberg, a climate activist, hit home that “we can’t solve a crisis without treating it as a crisis,” adding “you only talk about moving forward with the same ideas that got us into this mess.”

She went on to say that, “our civilisation is being sacrificed for the opportunity of a very small number of people to continue making an enormous amount of money. The sufferings of the many pay for the luxuries of the few.”

“In perhaps her most emotive statement, one that surely speaks to all of us, she looked to the future and said, “The year 2078, I will celebrate my 75th birthday. If I have children maybe they will spend that day with me. Maybe they will ask me about you. Maybe they will ask why you didn’t do anything while there still was time to act.”

Pointing the finger again at politicians and decision makers she argued, “Until you start focusing on what needs to be done rather than what is politically possible, there is no hope.”

In a rousing finale, she warned, “we have not come here to beg world leaders to care. You have ignored us in the past and you will ignore us again. We have run out of excuses and we are running out of time. We have come here to let you know that change is coming, whether you like it or not. The real power belongs to the people. Thank you.”

You can watch Greta Thunberg’s speech at the United Nations in full here.

If only such great minds, whichever generation they represent, were making the decisions. Let’s hope that those who are decide to listen. And to act.

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Image: “David Attenborough’s ‘Great Barrier Reef'” by Mark Tipple is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 

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