I Was Greta Thunberg
We fought different battles, 25 years apart, but the harassment we received is similar
In 1995, the French government commenced testing nuclear weapons in the French Pacific.
Those of us who were teenagers in Australia during this period grew up in an in-between time, politically. Sure, there were things happening in foreign countries — I vaguely registered hearing a lot about a place called “Chechnya” — but it felt like the developed world was stable.
In the naivety of youth, we believed life would always be this stable.
So when the newly elected French President declared that the country would be testing nuclear weapons in the Pacific, it felt… wrong. And totally unnecessary. Protests erupted worldwide. The South Pacific Forum threatened to expel France. There were embargoes on French wine and general condemnation from the global community.
I was 16 years old. A good student. I’d never been in trouble at school. I was a reader, mostly quiet — except, perhaps, in English and ancient history, my favorite subjects. I listened to a lot of Bad Religion — it was my kind of punk music because sure it was rebellious, but in an “I know big words and worry about the future” kind of way.
I cared about the planet. When the tests were first announced, some friends and I — outraged — went to a protest in the Brisbane central business district.
The protest was eye-opening. The area of Brisbane that a few of us were living in, Zillmere, was a well-known Housing Commission estate. It was the kind of area people euphemistically described with phrases like “urban decay” and “the cycle of poverty.”
Our high school comprised kids from this area and kids who came from more affluent suburbs such as Bald Hills and Carseldine, and the school administration happily fanned the flames of division between socioeconomic classes. Once, the principal — who, to this day, I consider a bully who thoroughly enjoyed making teenagers afraid — gave an address to the school about how if we worked hard we could have good careers, “ …even if you come from Zillmere!”
We were shamed and attacked for caring — who was putting us up to…