Dalai Lama sits down with Greta Thunberg: “there is real hope from our younger generation”

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Jan. 13 2021, Updated 10:18 a.m. ET

The 14th Dalai Lama and climate activist Greta Thunberg recently co-starred in a panel about the climate — on Zoom, of course — and as it turns out, both humanitarians are fans of each other’s work. In fact, the Dalai Lama even praised Greta Thunberg for renewing humanity’s hope surrounding climate action. 

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The January conversation, which was hosted by the Woodwell Climate Research Center and the Mind & Life Institute, focused on the crisis of climate feedback loops. It also promoted a new, free series of short films narrated by Richard Gere, titled Climate Emergency: Feedback Loops. 

The Dalai Lama applauded Greta Thunberg for her climate work.

“When I heard [of] this young girl from Sweden,” the Dalai Lama said, “I really felt, oh, there is real hope from our younger generation, who’s really thinking [about the] environment and these things.” 

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“I really feel it’s a sign of hope for [the] future,” the Dalai Lama continued. “Like my generation now [is] ending, so like you, the younger generation — really, all our hope depends on these young people.” 

“[The] past is passed. Now [the] future depend on younger generation ... Our generation create a lot of problem, sufficient problem — now let them solve [it],” the Dalai Lama added with a laugh. 

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Though the Dalai Lama was joking, the root of sarcasm is truth. On multiple occasions, Thunberg has commented on the fact that previous generations are responsible for triggering the ongoing climate crisis — but that the responsibility of fixing it has fallen onto young generations, like hers. 

“Why should I be studying for a future that soon may be no more, when no one is doing anything to save that future?” Thunberg said in a 2018 speech at the UN. “And what is the point of learning facts when the most important facts clearly mean nothing to our society?” 

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Greta Thunberg praised the Dalai Lama.

When one of the panelists asked the Dalai Lama if Thunberg could say something to him, he excitedly responded, “I am eager!” waving at the 18-year-old through the screen.

“Although we may be very different … we share the same goal … and that is to protect our planet and life on Earth and humanity,” Thunberg told the Dalai Lama.

“Thank you to your holiness for being such a loud advocate for environmental protection and environmental action,” Thunberg continued. “As a younger generation, we appreciate that very much, we are eternally grateful that you are standing up— not only for us, but for the future of the entire humanity and the entire planet.” 

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Thunberg also put out a call to action for those who tuned into the 90-minute conversation. “If I could ask one thing of you, it would be to educate yourself, to try to learn as much as you possibly can,” she said. “There is an unlimited amount of information … Spread that knowledge, spread that awareness to others.” 

What are climate feedback loops?

As mentioned above, this conversation centered on climate issues as related to feedback loops, a topic that Thunberg has mentioned before — including in Thunberg’s infamous “How dare you?” speech at the UN headquarters in 2019. 

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As defined by both NASA and the Climate Reality Project, a climate feedback loop is the chain reaction or vicious cycle of various climate-related factors impacting the climate in positive or negative ways. The forcings behind these feedback loops are typically one of three initial drivers of climate changes: solar irradiance, greenhouse gas emissions, and airborne pollutants

 When a driver increases an initial warming it is known as positive feedback, and when a driver reduces an initial warming it is known as negative feedback. If a feedback loop does not have enough negative feedback and is too full of positive feedback, it can lead to irreversible, detrimental climate changes, which means it could ultimately reach a tipping point

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