Come senators, congressmen
Please heed the call
Don’t stand in the doorway
Don’t block up the hall
For he that gets hurt
Will be he who has stalled
There’s a battle outside and it is ragin’
It’ll soon shake your windows and rattle your walls
For the times they are a-changin’
—Bob Dylan 1964
“You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words. And yet I’m one of the lucky ones. People are suffering. People are dying. Entire ecosystems are collapsing. We are in the beginning of a mass extinction, and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you!
“You say you hear us and that you understand the urgency. But no matter how sad and angry I am, I do not want to believe that. Because if you really understood the situation and still kept on failing to act, then you would be evil. And that I refuse to believe.” —Greta Thunberg 2019 ( at the United Nations)
Two anthems of protest from young people from two different eras. Both mobilized mass protest movements. Dylan’s was embraced by both the anti-war (Vietnam) and civil rights moments. Thunberg’s by an army, more than four million strong (which marched world-wide on September 20), mobilizing to fight for the future of the world — to finally address climate change.
Two fundamental differences distinguish these two movements: While stopping the Vietnam War and fighting for civil rights were (and are) critical issues, climate change is threatening to destroy life as we know it on Earth. And despite the protests of the ’60s and ’70s, no “right wing” attack was aimed at Bob Dylan.
Subsequent to the four-million-person march and Thunberg’s UN address, a vitriolic “right wing” tribal attack on Ms. Thunberg, age 16, was launched. She was compared to models in Nazi propaganda; videos of her speeches were altered to replace her voice with Adolph Hitler’s; Fox News pundits called her a “mentally ill Swedish child (she has Asperger’s) … being exploited by her parents”; likened her to children from the horror film “Children of the Corn”; and said she deserved a “spanking or a psychological intervention.” And of course, our chief climate denier, President Trump, who heard part of her speech at the UN, couldn’t help but sarcastically weigh in: “She seems like a very happy young girl looking forward to a bright and wonderful future. So nice to see!”
What’s new here is that these young people, like the Parkland young people who changed gun laws in Florida, don’t care about or take seriously these kinds of crass insults. Thunberg laughed it off. They as a movement keep going. And most importantly, they understand that ultimately the climate fight is a world-wide political fight.
Arctic permafrost is melting. Amazon deforestation is reaching a tipping point of no return. Warming waters are destroying ocean ecosystems. Melting glaciers are causing sea level rise. Extreme temperatures are parching the Earth around the globe. Extreme fires have become common place.
This youth movement of the 21st century will soon become its own kind of “tipping point” — a voting bloc which understands the dangers of climate change. Here in the United States, they can “shake [the] windows and rattle [the] walls” of Congress. They can ensure that our politicians really do “understand the situation” by voting Trump and the climate deniers out of office, and allowing the U.S. to resume its rightful place as the leader in the fight against climate change.
They are in the lead now. It’s they who will inherit this terrible problem. We have to join them. Time to hold hands and ensure that the “Times they are a-changing.”