Greta recently gave a speech on the UN Climate Action Summit and created a viral video together with George Monbiot. These two clips got the attention of millions of people on television, social media and real-life conversations. Unfortunately, we saw an avalanche of reactions that had little to do with the message she is trying to spread. And a lot of the comments that had something to do with climate change or deforestation were not very bright. I’m going to talk about the most common ‘criticisms’ that I have encountered, so this isn’t an objective representation of the sentiment that most people hold towards Greta and her work. And this is not an exhaustive list of the fallacious arguments and conspiracy claims addressed in her way, I bet that you will find many more in the Facebook comments of this very post.
The vast majority of comments are related to her personality, age and even appearance rather than the crucial message and the work that she is doing.
Many people feel uncomfortable that a 16-year old girl is trying to tell them what they should do. They feel like she’s way too immature to be able to talk about global issues and be involved in global policymaking. To be fair, the human brain develops until we’re 25 years old, so isn’t it reasonable to discount her words because of her age?
First of all, young people are the ones who are going to pay the biggest price when it comes down to the environmental crisis. It makes sense that they are actively involved in the solutions, especially considering that scientists tell us that we have very little time to avert irreversible damage to the ecosystem and disruption of the climate. She doesn’t have the luxury to wait to act until she is fully mature. Let’s also not pretend like a teenager is not capable of understanding the basics of the environmental crisis. Many adults are refusing to accept the most simple scientific conclusions, so clearly maturity isn’t a problem.
In my experience, most people online who scream about her age are men, and this isn’t a coincidence. A lot of these people would like to see themselves as important and valuable, who, in one or another are protecting the weaker members of our societies. We can understand why they see their manhood challenged, by a teenage girl who is saying that adults have failed to protect the future of their children, and that it’s up to her to be the adult in the room.
But isn’t she just a puppet? Isn’t she just parroting the arguments of her parents and her elite Illuminati overlords? She didn’t come to her own conclusions by doing scientific research, so isn’t she just appealing to authority?
ANYONE talking about climate science, with the exception of climate scientists, is repeating information that they heard somewhere. The difference is that she is presenting the views of scientists whose opinions actually matter because they are experts in the field. When climate deniers quote a handful of scientists who are bought by some of the most powerful industries. They are the ones who are parroting talking points that have been debunked thousands of times.
Those who say that the whole climate crisis is a conspiracy aimed at taxing people, clearly haven’t thought seriously about their opinions. If you think that rich and powerful people need to make up a tax to extract wealth from the population, you aren’t paying attention to the growing income gap between the wealthiest and the rest of society. It has more to do with tax avoidance and unjust wealth accumulation on the backs of working people and the environment.
There are those who don’t shy away from criticizing her because she has a form of autism (Asperger). It’s more than clear that her disorder is not preventing him from making excellent arguments in public speeches, and I’m sure that her critics would fail to do that. Furthermore, the fact that she is capable of organizing with thousands of people around the world at such a young age is an impressive accomplishment for any person. Her actions speak louder than her critic’s words.
The other type of criticism is related to the nature and presentation of her message.
I’ve seen comments by people who identify as environmentalists, but who claim that she is too aggressive, too emotional and too grumpy. They claim that this kind of negativity is unwarranted and doesn’t help advance the cause. I believe that her success is more than enough to prove them wrong, she is clearly effective. Besides, I wish I could speak with such emotions and passion. The situation is dire, we’re in the midst of a mass extinction, millions of people are dying, it doesn’t make sense to deliver this kind of message with a smile on the face.
But of course, the vast majority of the criticisms about her message are mostly centered around climate change denial. Believe it or not, many people still try to reject the fact the planet is warming because of greenhouse gas emissions related to human activity. And there are those who have moved away from this position but would like to think that the situation is not as alarming as it comes through Greta’s speeches. Both of these arguments are examples of climate change denial since they fail to take into account the scientific consensus around the urgency of action against climate change. Most scientists don’t think that small incremental changes will be enough to avoid very dangerous levels of warming during the 21st century. Unfortunately, I have little hope that people who today are still denying the reality of climate change are going to be easily persuaded in time. Here is a website that debunks the most common climate denial arguments: Skeptical Science, if you prefer a video format this excellent YouTube channel examined pretty much every single objection to climate science.
The last type of criticisms is regarding the efficacy of her activism. Many people say something along the lines’ enough with the talking let’s start doing things’ This is quite a ridiculous objection, because clearly what she’s doing is taking action on pretty much every level.
Talking about the issues is already a good way of taking action. It’s not like the corporate news is bombarding us with messages about deforestation and greenhouse feedback loops. But of course, her activism doesn’t stop there. Organizing the climate strike is a perfect example of mobilizing large groups of people which is precisely what we need to be doing. The children striking are going to be active voters in a couple of years, so her work is clearly doing something. On top of this, she is very consistent between her ideology and individual choices. She is vegan, she tries to reduce her environmental and carbon emissions of her travels as much as possible, she tries to reduce her plastic waste more than most environmentalists do, including myself…
Another argument against her efficacy is that she is talking to politicians and that they clearly don’t want to make any serious changes. In a way this is true, I don’t believe that real change is going to come from the people who are in power today. And they would like to virtue signal that they are concerned about these issues and open to criticisms.
I also don’t think that she’s under any illusion that the change is going to come from these people who are clearly representatives of the corporate interests. Her speeches and mobilization are laying the ground for a movement that is necessary to overthrow or pressure the political system. Greta is mobilizing the youth, and we should mobilize our generations. The last annoying argument had to do with this.
Many people who like Greta are saying something along the lines ‘ she is great, it’s the young people who are going to solve this mess’. The young people don’t have the economic and political power that adults have. They can be a part of the solutions, but all of us have to act urgently. Greta is calling us to action because she knows that we have the power and that there is no time to lose. There are enough people who understand the issues, there are enough people who aren’t happy with the economic system, the key is to mobilize them around concrete solutions.