Actions speak louder than medals

Some people use it to open doors to gain wealth or frame it onto the wall of their premise like a trophy for a hunter

pic by AFP

MANY people clamour to achieve awards and titles. To have their photos taken and praying that one newspaper will pick the story and print the picture. It is a recognition of their achievements. Some people use these titles and awards to open doors to gain wealth. Others simply love to frame and pin the certificate onto the wall of their premise like a trophy for a hunter.

But one teenager did the opposite. Sixteen-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg (picture), who shot to fame with her “How Dare You” speech at the United Nations (UN) Climate Action Summit, was honoured by the Nordic Council with an environmental award yesterday, had declined an award.

The ceremony was held in Stockholm by the Nordic Council, a regional body for inter-parliamentary cooperation.

After Thunberg was announced as the recipient of the award, her representative told the audience that she would not accept the award or the prize sum of 350,000 Danish kroner (RM217,670).

Her reason for declining — the climate movement needed people in power to start “listening” to science, and not awards.

She weaved her decline with gratitude, thanking the organisers for the “huge honour”, but criticised Nordic countries for not living up to their “great reputation” on climate issues.

The instant climate icon who has over 7.7 million followers on Instagram said: “The Nordic countries have a great reputation around the world when it comes to climate and environmental issues. There is no lack of bragging about this. There is no lack of beautiful words.

“But when it comes to our actual emissions and our ecological footprints per capita — if we include our consumption, our imports, as well as aviation and shipping — then, it’s a whole other story.”

Earlier this year, Thunberg was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize where she was one of the favourites to win it. The coveted prize, however, went to Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali for helping to deescalate tensions with neighbouring Eritrea.

Thunberg’s fans were visibly upset. One man just could not fathom how Thunberg did not win the Nobel Peace Prize, saying she had inspired a generation and proven that one is never too young to make a difference.

On the other hand, one could imagine her sighing in relief when the award recipient was announced on Oct 11, because it also meant she had one less event to attend and one less speech to give as she was, in fact, at that time preparing for a “Fridays for Future” climate strike in Denver, Colorado.

More importantly than a medal is the impact she has made in a short period of time. Her supporters grew to over six million in the “Fridays for Future” strikes in September, and in the same month, she led 250,000 people in a climate protest in New York. To think that just one year ago, she was all alone in her first climate strike.

Besides the UN Climate Action Summit, Thunberg had given passionate speeches at the World Economic Forum in Geneva, and last year at the UN climate talks in Poland. She has changed the conversation on environment; a conversation participated by both sides — supporters and haters. While she has succeeded in this aspect, it is science-based action that she is really aiming for.

Some argued that prestigious awards could help her in achieving her goals, other highlighted that rejecting them though bold, would bear real results. Supporters and detractors will continue to argue Thunberg’s decisions. But one thing for sure, in anything, actions do, after all, speak louder than medals.


Farezza Hanum Rashid is the assistant news editor at The Malaysian Reserve.