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Dear Greta Thunberg

by Philippa Settels

Wow! What an incredible difference a year can make!

On the eve of what will become the biggest, most historical and most important global marches this world has ever seen, I wanted to write you a thank you and an apology letter. If it so happens that I come face to face with you during the march tomorrow, I will tell you in person!

When you were about four years old, I woke up one morning faced with a devastating personal nightmare. Through many months of healing, research and determination, it was revealed that toxins in our environment were the cause of this sudden and terrifying illness.

More importantly though, this nightmare became the catalyst for deep transformative change. It gave me an awareness that I refused to look at before. You see, I like so many of my generation, and those who came before us, have done our part to destroy our beautiful planet - our one and only home.

I was a mindless consumer and I was poisoning our Mother Earth unknowingly, blindly, ignorantly, and in turn poisoning myself...

This awakening of sorts, coupled with having two children, made me realize that I had to make drastic changes, to preserve their health and protect the planet.

Oddly enough, I had been a nature and animal lover my entire life. And yet, sadly and shamefully, I polluted our home for the majority of my adult life and ignorantly contributed to Climate Change and all of its devastating effects that we are witnessing today.

My nightmare however was transformed into a dream. A dream of creating a better world, a healthier, greener, brighter world for all of its inhabitants including my children, and their future children...

With very strong and deep passion, I have dedicated the past decade of my life on educating individuals, communities and businesses on the importance of reducing our environmental footprint by making better choices. I know that I have made a difference in people's lives by following this dream.

People often say to me, "How could I have been so ignorant?" to which I reply: "The system is geared that way but... quote the lovely late Maya Angelou: "When you know better, you do better!"

Over the years I furthered my research and training in all things related to the environment, and even became a Certified UN Sustainable Development Goals Advocate for local implementation in 2016.

But last year was particularly difficult. It was the year I worked the hardest to broaden my reach and get this important message across: that making greener choices and taking Climate Action was necessary above all else, more than ever, for our world's survival! I have been diligently focusing my energy on solutions to solve this problem.

And yet, I often felt that nobody was listening. I knew that the "system" was terribly broken and needed a complete overhaul.

I have also been marching for nearly a decade at Earth Day, Climate Change and Environmental Protection rallies always in the hopes that something would change... but very little did.

Politicians continued to make false promises and it was just business as usual. However often I felt discouraged, I never gave up.

And then out of the blue one Friday morning a young lady decided to go on a school strike outside of her city's parliament building (against her parents wishes, I might add!) and make a stand for the plight of our planet. How interesting, I thought! How brave, I thought!

A few months later I woke up to another nightmare: The UN's IPCC report declaring that we only have a decade left to seriously mitigate the effects of Climate Change before they become irreversible. Before permanent devastation completely takes over!

As it was for you and so many others, this news was shattering and one of the scariest moments of my life. I felt engulfed by a dark cloud, feeling our world's future doom and demise. I felt that all of my efforts had been for nothing.

That all the work that environmentalists, naturalists, conservationists, concerned citizens and organizations worldwide had done to preserve what was left during these last four decades was for nothing. That nobody was listening to the sound of the scientists' alarms!

That I had let down all those I had helped and inspired to live greener lifestyles for the betterment of our world. That I had let my children down, and that their future was doomed.

I truly and honestly felt defeated and depressed.

But you continued to strike every Friday and others joined you, slowly gaining momentum. Your enlightening and passionate speeches over this past year have been nothing short of inspiring, and have brought people to their knees. The world hasn't been the same ever since!

I wish to thank you Greta for displaying to the entire planet your unshakable courage, your grace, your intelligence, your eloquence, your sensitivity and your resolve in the face of Climate Change. You possess all the attributes of a TRUE leader. If the leaders of the world had been more like you, we certainly wouldn't be in this mess we're in now. Your selflessness, dedication and sacrifice will never be taken in vain and will never be forgotten...

However, your age, gender, race, hair/wardrobe (really?!!) and even your neurological differences have made you a target for extreme hatred, which deeply saddens me. But at the same time, it merely reflects what our world has been afflicted by for so long: a disease of ignorance, fear, greed, and power (the wrong kind)... You have been able through your strength of character to deflect what has been angrily thrown at you and shine your beautiful light upon this darkened world, despite it.

I know that you don't want my hope, but that is exactly what you have given me, what you have given the entire world. I look at this photo and I feel that we all carry hope in our hearts that together we can all make a difference, and it's all thanks to you Greta. The tides are changing and a better world is on the horizon.

The fear is still very present but it has fueled my ongoing dedication to leave this world a better place than when I arrived, and to create a legacy for my children. I will never give up!

I thank you from the bottom of my heart, and I am very sorry for what I have done. Thank you for BEING the change this world so desperately needs! Thank for being an example of what is possible. Thank you for marching in our city with us tomorrow.

Here's to a brighter future together Greta! I look forward to all the Climate Action that will be taken worldwide thanks to you and your tireless efforts. I will do all that I possibly can as long as I am walking this Earth.

Bless your beautiful soul darling girl. You are truly an Earth Angel here to awaken all of humanity...

Philipps Settels

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