A revolution always requires an inspired individual and a dissatisfied humanity. There is a environmental revolution taking place and there are individuals who are taking up the burden to be the face of it. Two such individuals have come into the limelight last year – Greta Thunberg and Saalumarada Thimmakka. Two environmentalist different in every way united by a common goal.
When Saalumarada Thimmakka walks on the highway, it does not look like an old woman strolling on the road but like a mother given a guard of honour by her children. The 105 year old environmentalist has planted 385 banyan trees along a four-kilometre stretch of highway between Hulikal and Kudur in the state of Karnataka and nearly 8000 other. Her tree planting mission began fifty years ago when a young Thimmakka and her husband needed an escape from the village stigma that followed a couple who could not have children so she nurtured saplings instead. Her lifelong work has not only turned the tiny village of Hulikal into a green oasis but it has also inspired many people to take up tree planting. In the last leg of her life she enjoys the status of a local celebrity and a global recognition for her environmental efforts.
Greta Thunberg was only eight when the subject of climate change touched her. As she studied the subject further she began changing her lifestyle and convincing the people around her to do the same. As a sixteen year old she started sitting outside the Swedish parliament on her own holding placard every Friday demanding for stronger climate action. Friday for future has now become a global movement involving millions of people taking to the streets. Her speech at the 2019 UN climate action summit in New York proves not only her stature but her courage when she looks straight at the eyes of the top leaders of the world and says “How dare you? You have stolen my dreams and my childhood.”
The story of these two personalities is a strange study in leadership. Some may think it unfair that there are people in the world like Thimmakka who work silently, steadily, unconditionally for years without much recognition while a sixteen year old rises to such prominence within just one year. While others may marvel at the courage of little Greta, focus on the big changes that she’s aiming for and overlook the small efforts of Thimmakkas in the world. The larger picture shows us that there is change happening on every level and that nature works in strange ways to get her work done. She uses the exuberance of the youth as well as the steady endeavour of the old, she uses the aggregation of the weak to outnumber and challenge the powerful, she saturates the privileged with everything so that they realise the emptiness of it all and use their position for a greater cause, and she selects the most ordinary faces to be the poster person of her grandest movements.