"My name is Greta Thunberg, I am 16 years old, I come from Sweden, and I want you to panic. I want you to act as if the house was on fire."
That's how the young climate activist began her address to members of the European Parliament (MEPs) on Tuesday.
In a 13-minute speech that equated civilization to "a castle built on sand" and was punctuated by applause from the chamber, Thunberg admonished the MEPs for inaction on the climate crisis and begged them to "wake up" and "unite behind the science."
Fighting back tears, Thunberg said that "we are in the midst of a sixth mass extinction and the extinction rate is up to 10,000 times faster than what is considered normal with up to 200 species becoming extinct every day."
She also outlined "symptoms of ecological breakdown."
"Erosion of fertile top soil, deforestation of our great forests, toxic air pollution, loss of insects and wildlife, the acidification of our oceans—these are all disastrous trends being accelerated by a way of life that we.. see as our right to carry on," said Thunberg.
"Our house is falling apart, and our leaders need to start acting accordingly—because at the moment they are not," she said.
If leaders realized the gravity of the crisis, said Thunberg,
you wouldn't fly around the world in business class chatting about how the market will solve everything... You wouldn't talk about buying and building your way out of a crisis that has been creating by buying and building things. You wouldn't hold three emergency Brexit summits and no emergency summit regarding the breakdown of the climate and environment. You wouldn't be arguing about phasing out coal in 15 or 11 years...You wouldn't be celebrating that one nation like Ireland may soon divest from fossil fuels. You wouldn't celebrate that Norway has decided to stop drilling for oil at the scenic resort of Lofoten Islands but will continue to drill for oil everywhere else for decades.
SCROLL TO CONTINUE WITH CONTENT
Get our best delivered to your inbox.
Thunberg also pointed to the upcoming EU elections as a possible turning point.
"In this election," said Thunberg, "you vote for the future living conditions for humankind."
Unlike lawmakers, young people around the world are acutely aware of the urgency, she said.
"Millions of children are taking to the streets school striking for the climate to call attention to the climate crisis," said Thunberg. "You need to listen to us."
Thunberg expressed hope that lawmakers would see the walls of the house falling down and do what is right.
"It's still not too late to act. It will take a far-reaching vision. It will take courage. It will take... fierce determination to act now to lay the foundation," she said.
"To do your best is no longer good enough. We must all do the seemingly impossible," said Thunberg. "And it's OK if you refuse to listen to me. I am, after all, just a 16-year-old schoolgirl girl from Sweden."
"But you cannot ignore the scientists," she said. "Or the science. Or the millions of school-striking children striking for the right to a future."
"I beg you," said Thunberg. "Please do not fail on this."