It is a new year, but if you listen to or read the headlines, there appears to be nothing new at all.

Washington disgraces, from government shutdowns to the plethora of scandals; parties fighting each other, to fighting within the parties themselves; it has all become just a bunch of noise for most of us.

Have you heard of Greta Thunberg? I hadn’t, probably because the American media is so obsessed with what goes on in Washington.

Let me tell you about this remarkable young woman.

Greta Thunberg, age 15, is raising awareness of climate issues and doing it in a very grown-up way.

On Aug. 20, 2018, after heat waves and wildfires in Sweden, Thunberg, then in ninth grade, decided not to go to school until the 2018 Swedish general election on Sept. 9. Her demands were that the Swedish government reduce carbon emissions as per the Paris Agreement. She began her protest by sitting outside the Swedish Parliament every day during school hours holding the sign “school strike for climate.”

With strong objections from her parents, this young activist skipped school to advance a cause about which she was so passionate.

After the general elections, she continued to strike but only on Fridays. She gained worldwide attention. Unfortunately, not very much in the United States.

She inspired young people across the globe, who then took part in student strikes. As of December 2018, more than 20,000 students have held strikes in at least 270 cities worldwide. The countries include Australia, Belgium, Canada, the Netherlands, Germany, Finland, Denmark, Japan, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.

In an interview she stated that she was inspired by the young survivors of the Parkland mass shooting in Florida and their protests in the aftermath, promoting gun control legislation.

She was determined to bring heightened awareness of the climate change issue to the younger people of the world, and is hoping to make those in power realize that this is not an issue that can be ignored or continually put off.

Stating that, “I must do what I can … Sweden is held up as a role model, but we are not … our leaders have failed us and we must hold the older generation accountable.”

This young dynamo is angry and resolved to channel that anger into action. She is taking her message internationally and getting some renown as a result.

Whether you are in agreement with the concept of climate change or not, I hope you can derive hope from this girl’s determination, as I have. There are young people in the world that still find ways, peaceful ways, to try to make our world a better place.

With the wintry wind blowing, swirling around Washington as well as outside my window, I am heartened by this young woman. At the beginning of this new year, what a pleasant surprise it was for me to happen upon Greta Thunberg with her passion and spirit on a quest for the betterment of our planet.

What a breath of fresh air. I don’t know about you, but I really needed it.

Wendy J. Levenfeld is a published novelist, playwright and columnist. Send comments to Visit Wendy’s website at

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