She’s organized the largest environmental protests in history, a Noble Peace Prize nominee, spoken in front of both U.S. Congress and the United Nations and already has Fox News issuing her apologies.
Oh, and she’s only 16.
Hailing from Sweden, Greta Thunberg has fastly made a name for herself as arguably the most visible climate activist in the world. We all well know the earth is cooked, but few have responded quite the way Thunberg has.
Co-founder of the Youth Strike for Climate movement, Greta has been able to pioneer climate strikes across the world, stand-up to world leaders and global elites, and heighten environmental awareness in the youth in less than two years.
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Over 4 million on #ClimateStrike today. In 163 countries. And counting… Thank you all!! And if you belong to the small number of people who feel threatened by us, then we have some very bad news for you: This is just the beginning. Change is coming – like it or not. #FridaysForFuture (photo Shadia Fayne Wood)
What started off as a solo protest outside Swedish Parliament back in August of 2018, Greta’s movement has grown into a full-on sponsored and heavily resourced campaign disrupting the natural order of politics. Now she’s easily the most recognizable face when it comes to climate change.
Don’t believe the hype? Ask the thousands of people overwhelming the streets of lower Manhattan chanting, “Save our planet!” as she unboarded the 60-foot-long emissions-free racing yacht she sailed across the Atlantic in what they think of her or the kinds who literally consider her an icon.
Like most things, however, Greta has not gone without critique. One being her stern and, dare I say, crass, way of addressing those whom she feels responsible for handling this crisis.
Following her latest global strike that took place this past weekend — her biggest to date with an estimated four million people who participated worldwide, including 300,000 in New York — she addressed the crowd saying she had “some very bad news” for the “people who are threatened by us,” speaking to the opposers of her government-led fossil emission rollback.
Likewise, she found herself trending and going viral on Twitter again this Monday after addressing the Summit with a sobering monologue.
“I shouldn’t be up here. I should be back at school on the other side of the ocean,” the 16-year-old from Sweden told the United Nations Climate Action Summit. “Yet you all come to us young people for hope. How dare you! You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words.”
Greta has Asperger’s, which explains the hot words and cool disposition but it doesn’t take away from her scathing words nor the people offended by them. Although tough to swallow, Greta’s message is simple: something needs to be done about climate change and it’s up to the government to do it.
Last year she told The Guardian she would stop protesting when Sweden starts cutting carbon emissions by a drastic 15% a year, and in an interview with Teen Vogue this month she expressed that the objective of the strikes is to push governments, corporations, and fellow citizens to do “what is required and what is possible.”
Except, the problem with her solutions is that it’s extremely partisan. And in this case, she sided with the party that’s currently not in the White House.
From being called a “mentally ill Swedish child” by a conservative pundit on Fox News — who later issued an apology — and Laura Ingraham’s comparison of her to Stephen King’s Children of the Corn to Donald Trump himself mocking her clearly serious disposition, tweeting that she “seems like a happy girl,” Greta has been catching the brunt of it.
She seems like a very happy young girl looking forward to a bright and wonderful future. So nice to see! https://t.co/1tQG6QcVKO
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 24, 2019
Some theorize that she’s nothing more than a political chess piece being used by adults to make their arguments while others are straight-up attacking her ideas.
Completely absolving us — the inhabitants and citizens of the earth — of personal responsibility and making governments and big corporations culpable for environmental reform not only puts us at the mercy of the government, but it ignores the influence and power each of us actually has to make a change.
Yes, corporations can be doing plenty to reduce emissions, but the answer probably lies somewhere in between — work on both parties’ part.
While the internet gets their full of Greta’s haunting words at the UN and while conservatives use her disability to their PR advantage, the real issue lies in what we ultimately decide to do.
Co-opted by political strategist or singular girl with a cause, either way, the spark Greta has put on the conversation of climate change is long overdue.