You need to know about 15-year-old Greta Thunberg.

It will make your day, I promise. I first learned about her from one of our letter-writers — Bernice Mennis — who told me to watch the extraordinary speech she gave at the United Nations climate change summit in Poland earlier this month.

Thunberg, a pig-tailed wisp of a girl, looks even younger than 15, but sounds much older.

Last September, Thunberg walked out of class to protest the lack of debate over climate change leading up to the Swedish elections. She said she got the idea from the Parkland kids in Florida.

For three weeks, Thunberg boycotted school and sat on the steps of the Riksdag in Stockholm with a sign reading “Skolstrejk for kilmatet” — School strike for climate.

After the election, she went back to school four days a week, but each Friday she returned to the steps of parliament as her protest gradually gained international acclaim. Other protests were organized in The Netherlands, Germany, Finland and Denmark.

Thunberg appeared in the “Rise for Climate” demonstration in Brussels and the “Declaration of Rebellion” in London.

I never heard about any of these protests, just as I had never heard of Thunberg.

Thunberg inspired thousands of students in Australia to walk out of school, despite Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s warning of “more learning in schools and less activism.”

It was another example of a politician who got it all wrong.

But I don’t recall seeing any protests around here, or anywhere in the United States for that matter.

It’s clear we are not concerned.

At the same conference where Thunberg spoke, a United States delegation made a presentation in support of coal.

It was greeted with mocking laughter.

As the only country in the civilized world not to support the fight against climate change, we deserve the mockery.

Thunberg spoke at the same conference.

Nobody laughed when she said, “You are not mature enough to tell it like is. Even that burden you leave to us children. But I don’t care about being popular. I care about climate justice and the living planet.”

The pig-tailed sprite was poised and deliberate as she called the adults of the world onto the carpet.

“Our biosphere is being sacrificed so that rich people in countries like mine can live in luxury,” Thunberg said in a strong, even voice. “It is the sufferings of the many which pay for the luxuries of the few.

“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.

“You say you love your children above all else, and yet you are stealing their future in front of their very eyes.”

Thunberg and her family also walk the walk.

She has stopped eating meat, and flying on airplanes, and her parents have followed suit. The family installed solar batteries, started growing their own vegetables and have an electric car.

To make an appointment with a journalist for an interview this fall, they rode a half-hour on their bikes.

Her words grew stronger as her speech proceeded in Poland.

“Until you start focusing on what needs to be done rather than what is politically possible, there is no hope. We cannot solve a crisis without treating it as a crisis.

“We need to keep the fossil fuels in the ground, and we need to focus on equity. And if solutions within the system are so impossible to find, maybe we should change the system itself.

“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.”

The applause was polite at best.

The climate talks resulted in nearly 200 nations agreeing to a set of rules to limit warming of the planet that they all knew did not go far enough.

The United States was not one of them.

What we need is the leadership of a 15-year-old girl instead of what we have now.

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Ken Tingley is the editor of The Post-Star and may be reached via email at tingley@poststar.com. You can read his blog, “The Front Page,” daily at www.poststar.com or his updates on Twitter at www.twitter.com/kentingley



Ken Tingley is Editor of The Post-Star in Glens Falls, N.Y. and writes a regular blog called "The Front Page."

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