The Scottish Government has now declared a “Climate Emergency”. To most of us, especially if you are under 30, this is synonymous with one name or rather one person: Greta Thunberg.
Before I continue, let me make this declaration: I am fully aware that I am going to move on to thin ice with this article. I will not pour out bile, shame anyone or willfully offend anybody. If I happen to do so, it is wholly unintentional. These days, disclaimers like this seem to be a requirement if you stand up and voice your opinion. As Greta knows all too well.
The amount of vitriol this young girl receives is nothing short of abysmal. What people like Julia Hartley-Brewer and Lord Ashcroft don’t seem to be able to comprehend is that they are not just attacking her but every one of us. They resort to, if I may say so, infantile humour to show… what exactly? Ultimately, they are only discrediting themselves. We should leave them down in the depths where they have chosen to position themselves.
There is just a minor thing which is perhaps not so minor after taking a closer look at it that rankled with me. And that is something I have noticed with her most fervent supporters: any differing opinion is treated as sacrilege, with people like George Monbiot lashing out at anybody right at the forefront. This, I think, is equally problematic. And this is for one simple reason: that way, Greta is being degraded to be the playground of opposing political opinions. But there is undeniably a lot more at stake than that.
As the narrative goes, it all started last year in October in front of the government buildings in Stockholm, where a lonely, 15-year old girl went on school strike to raise awareness of the impending climate crisis and the end of the world as we know it. This was soon picked up by a man called Ingmar Rentzhog who tagged her on his Twitter account along with 20 others who are allegedly his work colleagues. The rest is history as she was catapulted to fame after her speeches in front of the European parliament, Davos and now with her journey in a sailboat across the Atlantic ocean to attend a climate conference.
Let’s look at some of the points levelled at her. Apparently, her parents, rather famous themselves, her mother the opera singer Malena Erman, are only using her for their own political agenda. Ingmar Rentzhog is apparently also only using her to promote his business. I won’t even go into her Autism, because it is just disgraceful to bully her because of it. Another thing they pick on is her mother’s claim that Greta is able to see CO2 floating in the air as she writes in her book Scenes from the Heart (“Scener från Hjärtat,” 2018). Most of us cannot see CO2, and, if I may say so, I doubt Greta’s ability to do so. But that is neither here nor there. That she has now got a network around her to support her cause is often held against her. But why?
The truth is probably somewhere in the middle.
Only because she was discovered and then promoted does not make her courageous stance less original.
Only because some latched on to it doesn’t mean that she is not doing most of it off her own volition.
Only because she has been made into the spokesperson of a global movement does not mean that she does not feel for it with all her heart.
And nobody can doubt that. That is how mass movements work. And would Ingmar not have promoted his hashtag more if all he was after was to use her for his own PR?
The important thing is that she, unlike many others, is doing “something”. Let’s all do our “something” which may be just as effective. We need to support her cause and we should not give in to feelings of jealousy and envy because we do not receive the same attention for what we do. We should instead refocus and think: well, what can I do to change my wastefulness, conspicuous consumption, materialist notions? What do I do? What are my choices? A lot of us have already set out on this journey and are trying to rediscover some more frugal and minimalist ways of living. I am in grave doubt that making my own cleaning products and baking my own bread will change anything. But perhaps it will. If more and more people join in, it might get us somewhere. Simply regurgitating what other people say won’t make a difference.
Taking action will!
Now here is just another tiny little thing I would like to get off my chest. And it is not against anybody, least of all Greta and all the others and the wonderful work they are doing. We are all in this together. You. I. Our families. Adults as well as children. We should not make the mistake and start pointing at each other and say things along the lines of “You adults haven’t done this or that, now we, the children, have to sort it out” and so on.
Maybe it is about the intergenerational conflict, but I think, as I have said before, that there is a lot more at stake. We should and look at the positive side of things: there are millions of others who are already changing, and long before when neither #Wehavenotime nor Extinction Rebellion was even a glint in the milkman’s eye. Veganism and Permaculture have been on the rise for many years now. Let’s not forget that. There are those who are silently going about their daily business, family life and work. Only because I am over 30, nearer 40, in fact, does not make me impervious to the issues. I grew up with all of them. I remember the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1994. I do. I was 13. I am just as opposed to social injustice and cruelty, the depletion of natural resources and the exploitation of animals. I think it is important to realise in the current climate (pun not intended), that not all members of the older generation(s) are part of the league of money grabbers who are squandering our children’s future for the sake of financial gain and not giving a toss. I for my part give a toss and quite an enormous one. I have a very young daughter and I think about her future every day. We are not all callous, uncaring adults, because that seems to be the mantra. I am not less adamant at reducing my carbon footprint. I have stopped flying. I have used the Euro Star to travel from Frankfurt on Main to London. I use the ferry when I visit my relatives in Germany.
Now, here is the opportunity to do something about it. Question it. Change your ways.
I am going to find out more: How is eating less meat going to affect it? We will have to change what we wear, what we eat, how we travel, how we heat our homes and about almost everything else we buy and do on a daily basis.
Greta’s greatest legacy is already that it is being talked about more than before and that people are waking up. We need to believe, we need new icons of identification. And she is such an icon. Let’s hope she will emerge from this frenetic, frothing frenzy on social media even stronger than she already is.