When 16-year climate activist Greta Thunberg told world leaders in Davos that she wanted them to “act as if the house was on fire”, she sparked a tidal wave of global awe and action.
Millions of students have since skipped school to protest climate change; Britain declared a “climate emergency” on May 2 after a movement of environmentalists called Extinction Rebellion brought London to a standstill in April; and Thunberg was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.
But away from the panoply of marches and hashtags, in the tiny village of Crowan, Cornwall, a woman called Ti Østmo heard about Thunberg on her iPad — and decided to dedicate her 100th birthday to her planet-saving mission.
The environmentalist threw a party with her family and friends at Gyllyngvase Beach in Falmouth.
Østmo baked 100 organic scones for all the revelers, served on environmentally friendly plates and cups. She asked that instead of buying her a birthday present, everyone should plant a tree instead — and leave a “message of peace” on a climate change tree to “spread the word” that the world must take action on the issue, according to the BBC.
Referring to Greta Thunberg, Østmo said: “If she can do it for the young, then I can do it for the old."
Cornwall's oldest climate protester says she is hopeful she will see measures taken to address climate change within her lifetime, despite being 100 years old. Ti Østmo celebrated her 100th birthday today on the beach with a banner calling for action. https://t.co/sfYri7v5tBpic.twitter.com/BGihhPerSx— Greg Martin (@photogregmartin) May 5, 2019
Østmo lives on a smallholding with her son, daughter-in-law, and chickens, where the family grows their own fruit and vegetables.
“I sincerely hope to see things moving in the right direction in my lifetime, but with the government there just seems to be a lot of talk,” Østmo told Cornwall Live. “Perhaps if we could harness all of that hot air!
“But they need to be making laws about carbon emissions,” she continued. “They need to have more electric buses, to get all the cars off the roads.”
And, of course, Østmo officially declared a climate emergency while her best mates partied with her on the beach.
A 100-year-old woman has celebrated her birthday with a climate change-themed beach party. Instead of buying birthday presents for her, Ti Østmo asked people if they would plant trees. pic.twitter.com/P5WpwyXh7h— BBC World Service (@bbcworldservice) May 8, 2019
Cornwall Live reports that it was the threat to the world’s bee populations that first led Østmo to care about climate change. She also wrote to British Prime Minister Theresa May after the renewable of the UK’s nuclear weapons programme to say she was ashamed to be British.
"Mum has always been a 'natural' environmentalist — riding her bike until in her 80s, growing veg and loving nothing more than to have her hands in the soil," her son Gavin said to BBC. "She has been on an aeroplane just twice in her life and has never driven a car."
There were quite a few members of the local Extinction Rebellion environmental group at Østmo’s party, and although she is not a member, she does support them. The movement rose to prominence this April with a campaign of direct action to urge the government to halt biodiversity loss and reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2025.
A new report released last week detailed how 1 million animal and plant species’ are now under threat from extinction because of human activity. Humanity has already caused a 20% reduction in global wildlife, indicating that the sixth mass extinction is seemingly underway.
The good news is that there’s still time to save the planet — just over 11 years, to be exact, before temperature rises caused by carbon emissions cause irreversible harm to our environment with calamitous consequences to human life.
But that means there’s still a moment or two to queue up the Kylie, whip out a woke-smoke machine, and party like it’s 1909. But if you do — party with hope. Party with a purpose. Party like Østmo.