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Teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg
Photography Luciana Riso

Greta Thunberg and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s talk brings much-needed hope

The two sat down to discuss climate activism and not being taken seriously for being ‘too young’

Greta Thunberg, the 16 year old activist who’s inspired international school strikes, is at the forefront of the conversation about climate change in Europe. On the other side of the Atlantic, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez – the youngest ever US congresswoman at 29 – is leading the American conversation. Obviously, their paths had to cross eventually, and they finally do in a conversation published by The Guardian this weekend (June 29).

Throughout the talk, Thunberg and AOC cover a range of issues related to climate activism, particularly bonding over the similarity of the situation: as in, they’re both female and notably young for their respective fields, meaning they aren’t always received as seriously as they should be.

Despite having found a unique platform for her voice – after addressing the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos in January, telling world leaders in politics and finance: “our house is on fire” – the teenage climate campaigner suggests she’s still routinely talked down to for being “too young”, with some even alleging that she’s being “used” in an “abusive” way.

“I’m also allowed to have a say,” Thunberg says. “Why shouldn’t I be able to form my own opinion and try to change people’s minds?”

Similarly, Ocasio-Cortez – who has proposed, alongside her Green New Deal, progressive policy around medicinal drug use – has struggled to be taken seriously. The Green New Deal was voted down 57-0 in the US senate. A week after she was sworn in, someone leaked a video of her dancing in an attempt at humiliation (which turned out to be a complete failure).

Elsewhere in the conversation, Thunberg and AOC touch on climate denialism (which seems to be on the downturn, fingers crossed) and the responsibilities of their respective countries – Sweden and the US – in leading the way for environmental change.

They also discuss what keeps them from wallowing in despair (and we could all use some advice in that department). “The school-striking children, when I see them – that is very hopeful,” Thunberg says.

“And also the fact that people are very unaware of the climate crisis. I mean, people aren’t continuing like this and not doing anything because they are evil, or because they don’t want to. I think that is very hopeful, because once we know, once we realise, then we change, then we act.”