Ocasio-Cortez meets Greta Thunberg for first time: 'Hope is something that you create'
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Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezDearborn office of Rep. Debbie Dingell vandalized Restless progressives eye 2024 Five issues that will define the months until the midterms  MORE met with teenaged climate activist Greta Thunberg for the first time in a video conversation to discuss activism and how to tackle climate change.

“So I’m curious, given how daunting the issue is, why aren’t you so filled with despair that you’re staying on your couch every day, and just waiting for the apocalypse?” the freshman congresswoman asked Thunberg at one point in a discussion published in The Guardian on Saturday.

“Before I started school striking, I was like that. I was so depressed and I didn’t want to do anything, basically,” Thunberg, who rose to fame last year after she began skipping school once a week to demonstrate outside the Swedish parliament to advocate for climate change, said in response.

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“But what I find encouraging is having all these people who are fighting on different sides in different ways, to create a better future and to make us avoid catastrophic climate breakdown,” Thunberg said.

“The school-striking children, when I see them – that is very hopeful. 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. We aren’t destroying the biosphere because we are selfish,” Thunberg continued. “We are doing it simply because we are unaware. I think that is very hopeful, because once we know, once we realize, then we change, then we act.”

Ocasio-Cortez responded by saying she had a “similar tipping point” on the issue of income equality.

“Many people know that several years ago I was working in a restaurant, and I had gone to college, and I had worked on so many things, but my family had fallen in to a lot of misfortune – my father had gotten sick and so on,” the congresswoman said. “And I was working in this restaurant and I would go, day in and day out, and I was so depressed. I felt so powerless, and as though there was nothing I could do that could effectively counter the enormous number of societal structures that are designed in the US to keep the working class poor, and to keep the rich, richer.”

“I was really wallowing in despair for a while: what do I do? Is this my life? Just showing up, working, knowing that things are so difficult, then going home and doing it again. And I think what was profoundly liberating was engaging in my first action – when I went to Standing Rock, in the Dakotas, to fight against a fracking pipeline” she continued. 

“It made me feel extremely powerful, even though we had nothing, materially – just the act of standing up to some of the most powerful corporations in the world,” Ocasio-Cortez told Thunberg.

“From there I learned that hope is not something that you have. Hope is something that you create, with your actions,” she said. “Hope is something you have to manifest into the world, and once one person has hope, it can be contagious. Other people start acting in a way that has more hope.”

The two also discussed their respective countries’ “duty to lead” the charge for on the environment for the rest of the world.

“People say, ‘Well, we should wait for China to do something.’ There’s this political culture of people trying to say America First – that the US is the best nation in the world, yet at the same time they’re saying, ‘Well, China’s not doing it, why should we?’” Ocasio-Cortez said.

“And I think it’s the same argument: are we going to choose to lead, or are we going to sit on our hands?” she asked.

“I mean, countries like Sweden or the US, since we are rich countries, need to go first,” Thunberg said. “Because people in poor countries need to be able to raise their standard of living. We have a duty to lead when we already have, basically, everything.”

Ocasio-Cortez also asked the teenage activist about how it feels to hear people say things like "don't politicize young people." 

"It’s almost a taboo," Ocasio-Cortez, who is the youngest woman to ever be elected to Congress, said. "That to have someone as young as you coming out in favor of political positions is manipulative or wrong. I find it very condescending, as though, especially in this day and age with the access to information we have, you can’t form your own opinions and advocate for yourself. I’m interested in how you approach that – if anyone brings that up with you?"

"That happens all the time," Thunberg answered. "That’s basically all I hear. The most common criticism I get is that I’m being manipulated and you shouldn’t use children in political ways, because that is abuse, and I can’t think for myself and so on. And I think that is so annoying! I’m also allowed to have a say – why shouldn’t I be able to form my own opinion and try to change people’s minds?"

"But I’m sure you hear that a lot, too; that you’re too young and too inexperienced. When I see all the hate you receive for that, I honestly can’t believe how you manage to stay so strong," she said.

During their conversation, Thunberg also revealed plans she had to travel to the United States in September to attend the United Nations Climate Action Summit. 

“I don’t fly for climate reasons so it’s not 100% yet, but we are figuring it out. It’s very hard, but I think it should be possible,” Thunberg said. 

Ocasio-Cortez said she was “so excited to follow that” and offered to lend a helping hand when she arrives. The Bronx native also promised to give Thunberg a “Queens’ welcome” if she ends up arriving in New York.