Probably most of us have seen the film: E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982). Let us for a minute regard this film as Theater … that is – that it’s reflecting to us a vision of ourselves. I will leave to you whether the reflection in this particular mirror is accurate; but, what it’s showing us is that the Grownups have somehow lost their humanity … and that the children are the only sane human beings around.
If you haven’t seen her before, let me introduce to you – Greta Thunberg:
(Greta Thunberg attacks world leaders at UN Summit on Climate Change, 23 Sept. 2019 [1 ½ min.])
Don’t you think you’re in the presence of a Sane Person? (a person of unusual sanity, I should think).
When she says “those of us on the spectrum” she is referring to the autistic spectrum … as she has Asperger’s syndrome (which she regards as an asset).
(Greta Thunberg, TED talk [11 min.])
She says – she does what she does … so that she’ll be able to look herself in the eye –
(Greta Thunberg on Whether She’d Meet with the President [8 ½ min.])
“Act … as though you love your children above all else” –
(Trump and Greta Thunberg clash at Davos over climate change [1 ½ min.]) –
[A fine example of and excerpt from – the Great War of Ideas.]
Jimmy Kimmel Live [6 min.] –
(Trump’s Insane Outburst Against 16-Year-Old Greta Thunberg)
From her speech at the U.N. global climate conference in Madrid … warning against “clever accounting and creative PR” to avoid action on the climate crisis. [8 min.] Hope is with THE PEOPLE!
(YOUNG ACTIVISTS AT DAVOS | WORLD ECONOMIC FORUM, 21-24 Jan. 2020
(Treasury Secretary Mnuchin says – Greta Thunberg can criticize ‘after she studies economics’)
Greta is one of our new great heroes
in the Great War of Ideas
Thunberg in April 2019
3 January 2003
|Occupation||Student, environmental activist|
|Movement||School strike for climate|
|Relatives||Olof Thunberg (grandfather)|
Greta Tintin Eleonora Ernman Thunberg [ˈɡrêːta ˈtʉ̂ːnbærj] (listen); born 3 January 2003) is a Swedish environmental activist on climate change whose campaigning has gained international recognition. Thunberg is known for her straightforward speaking manner, both in public and to political leaders and assemblies, in which she urges immediate action to address the climate crisis.(Swedish:
Thunberg’s activism started after convincing her parents to adopt several lifestyle choices to reduce their own carbon footprint. In August 2018, at age 15, she started spending her school days outside the Swedish parliament to call for stronger action on climate change by holding up a sign reading Skolstrejk för klimatet (School strike for climate). Soon, other students engaged in similar protests in their own communities. Together, they organised a school climate strike movement under the name Fridays for Future. After Thunberg addressed the 2018 United Nations Climate Change Conference, student strikes took place every week somewhere in the world. In 2019, there were multiple coordinated multi-city protests involving over a million students each. To avoid flying, Thunberg sailed to North America where she attended the 2019 UN Climate Action Summit. Her speech there, in which she exclaimed “how dare you”, was widely taken up by the press and incorporated into music.
Her sudden rise to world fame has made her both a leader and a target for critics. Her influence on the world stage has been described by The Guardian and other newspapers as the “Greta effect”. She has received numerous honours and awards including: honorary Fellowship of the Royal Scottish Geographical Society; Time magazine’s 100 most influential people and the youngest Time Person of the Year; inclusion in the Forbes list of The World’s 100 Most Powerful Women (2019) and two consecutive nominations for the Nobel Peace Prize (2019 and 2020).
Greta Thunberg was born on 3 January 2003 in Stockholm, Sweden, the daughter of opera singer Malena Ernman and actor Svante Thunberg. Her paternal grandfather was actor and director Olof Thunberg.
Thunberg says she first heard about climate change in 2011, when she was eight years old, and could not understand why so little was being done about it. The situation made her depressed. She stopped talking and eating, and lost ten kilograms (22 lb) in two months. Eventually, she was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome, obsessive–compulsive disorder (OCD), and selective mutism. In one of her first speeches demanding climate action, Thunberg described the selective mutism aspect of her condition as meaning she “only speaks when necessary”.
Greta struggled with depression for three or four years before she began her school strike. When she started protesting, her parents did not support her activism. Her father said he does not like her missing school but said: “[We] respect that she wants to make a stand. She can either sit at home and be really unhappy, or protest, and be happy”. Her Asperger diagnosis was made public nationwide in Sweden by her mother in May 2015, in order to help other families in a similar situation. While acknowledging that her diagnosis “has limited me before”, Thunberg does not view her Asperger’s as an illness, and has instead called it her “superpower”.
Activism at home
For about two years, Thunberg challenged her parents to lower the family’s carbon footprint and overall impact on the environment by becoming vegan, upcycling, and giving up flying. She has said she tried showing them graphs and data, but when that did not work, she warned her family that they were stealing her future. Giving up flying in part meant her mother had to give up her international career as an opera singer. Thunberg credits her parents’ eventual response and lifestyle changes with giving her hope and belief that she could make a difference. The family story is recounted in the 2018 book Scenes from the Heart.
Interviewed in December 2019 by the BBC, her father said his wife stopped flying to try to ‘save’ their daughter rather than the climate. He added: “To be honest, (her mother) didn’t do it to save the climate. She did it to save her child because she saw how much it meant to her, and then, when she did that, she saw how much (Greta) grew from that, how much energy she got from it.”
School strike for climate
Strike at the Riksdag
In August 2018, Thunberg began the school climate strikes and public speeches for which she has become an internationally recognised climate activist. In an interview with Amy Goodman from Democracy Now!, she said she first got the idea of a climate strike after school shootings in the United States in February 2018 led to several youths refusing to go back to school. These teen activists at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, went on to organise the March for Our Lives in support of greater gun control. In May 2018, Thunberg won a climate change essay competition held by Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladet. In part, she wrote “I want to feel safe. How can I feel safe when I know we are in the greatest crisis in human history?”
After the paper published her article, she was contacted by Bo Thorén from Fossil Free Dalsland, a group interested in doing something about climate change. Thunberg attended a few of their meetings. At one of them, Thorén suggested that school children could strike for climate change. Thunberg tried to persuade other young people to get involved but “no one was really interested”, so eventually she decided to go ahead with the strike by herself.
On 20 August 2018, Thunberg, who had just started ninth grade, decided not to attend school until the 2018 Swedish general election on 9 September; her protest began after the heat waves and wildfires during Sweden’s hottest summer in at least 262 years. Her demands were that the Swedish government reduce carbon emissions in accordance with the Paris Agreement, and she protested by sitting outside the Riksdag every day for three weeks during school hours with the sign Skolstrejk för klimatet (school strike for climate).
Thunberg said her teachers were divided in their views about her missing class to make her point. She says: “As people they think what I am doing is good, but as teachers they say I should stop.”
Social media activism
Thunberg posted a photo of her first strike day on Instagram and Twitter, with other social media accounts quickly taking up her cause. High-profile youth activists amplified her Instagram post, and on the second day she was joined by other activists. A representative of the Finnish bank Nordea quoted one of Thunberg’s tweets to more than 200,000 followers. Thunberg’s social media profile attracted local reporters whose stories earned international coverage in little more than a week.
One Swedish climate-focused social media company was We Don’t Have Time (WDHT), founded by Ingmar Rentzhog. He claimed her strike only began attracting public attention after he turned up with a freelance photographer and posted Thunberg’s photograph on his Facebook page and Instagram account, and a video in English that he posted on the company’s YouTube channel. Rentzhog subsequently asked Thunberg to become an unpaid youth advisor to WDHT. He then used her name and image without her knowledge or permission to raise millions for a WDHT for-profit subsidiary, We Don’t Have Time AB, of which Rentzhog is the chief executive officer. Thunberg received no money from the company and terminated her volunteer advisor role with WDHT once she realised they were making money from her name.
After October 2018, Thunberg’s activism evolved from solitary protesting to taking part in demonstrations throughout Europe; making several high-profile public speeches, and mobilising her growing number of followers on social media platforms. After the December 2018 general elections, Thunberg continued to strike only on Fridays. She inspired school students across the globe to take part in student strikes. That month, more than 20,000 students had held strikes in at least 270 cities.
Protests and speeches in Europe
Her speech during the plenary session of the 2018 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP24) went viral. She commented that the world leaders present were “not mature enough to tell it like it is”. In the first half of 2019 she joined various student protests around Europe, and was invited to speak at various forums and parliaments. At the January 2019 World Economic Forum, Thunberg gave a speech in which she declared: “Our house is on fire”. She addressed the British, European and French parliaments, where in the latter case several right-wing politicians boycotted her. In a short meeting with Thunberg, Pope Francis thanked her and encouraged her to continue. By March 2019, Thunberg was still staging her regular protests outside the Swedish parliament every Friday, where other students occasionally joined her. According to her father, her activism has not interfered with her schoolwork, but she has had less spare time. She finished lower secondary school with good grades. In July 2019, Time magazine reported Thunberg was taking a “sabbatical year” from school, intending to travel in the Americas while meeting people from the climate movement.
In August 2019, Thunberg sailed across the Atlantic Ocean from Plymouth, England, to New York, USA, in the 60-foot (18 m) racing yacht Malizia II, equipped with solar panels and underwater turbines. The trip was announced as a carbon-neutral transatlantic crossing serving as a demonstration of Thunberg’s declared beliefs of the importance of reducing emissions. France 24 reported that several crew would fly to New York to sail the yacht back to Europe. The voyage lasted fifteen days, from 14 to 28 August 2019. Thunberg was invited to give testimony in the US House Select Committe on the Climate Crisis on September 18. Instead of giving testimony, she gave an eight sentence statement and submitted the IPCC Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5 °C as evidence.
UN Climate Action Summit
On 23 September, Thunberg attended the UN Climate Action Summit in New York City. That day the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) hosted a press conference where Thunberg joined fifteen other children including Ayakha Melithafa, Alexandria Villaseñor, Catarina Lorenzo, Carl Smith and others. Together, the group announced they had made an official complaint against five nations that are not on track to meet the emission reduction targets they committed to in their Paris Agreement pledges: Argentina, Brazil, France, Germany, and Turkey. The complaint challenges these countries under the Third Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The Protocol is a quasi-judicial mechanism which allows children or their representatives, who believe their rights have been violated, to bring a complaint before the relevant ‘treaty body’, the Committee on the Rights of the Child. If the complaint is successful, the countries will be asked to respond, but any suggestions are not legally binding.
In a speech at the summit, Thunberg said to world leaders: “This is all wrong. I shouldn’t be up here. I should be back in school on the other side of the ocean. 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. And yet I’m one of the lucky ones. People are suffering. People are dying. Entire ecosystems are collapsing. We are in the beginning of a mass extinction. And all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you!”
Autumn global climate strikes
In Canada, Thunberg participated in climate protests in the cities of Montreal, Edmonton and Vancouver including leading a climate rally as part of the 27 September Global Climate Strike in Montreal. The school strikes for climate on 20 and 27 September 2019 were attended by over four million people, according to one of the co-organisers. Hundreds of thousands took part in the protest described as the largest in the city’s history. The mayor of Montreal gave her the Freedom of the City. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was in attendance, and Thunberg spoke briefly with him. While in the United States, Thunberg participated in climate protests in New York City, Iowa City, Los Angeles, Charlotte, Denver, and the Standing Rock Indian Reservation. In various cities, Thunberg’s keynote speech began by acknowledging that she was standing on land that originally belonged to Indigenous peoples, saying: “In acknowledging the enormous injustices inflicted upon these people, we must also mention the many enslaved and indentured servants whose labour the world still profits from today.”
Participation at COP25
Thunberg had intended to remain in the Americas to travel overland to attend the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP25) originally planned in Santiago, Chile in December. However, it was announced on short notice that COP25 was to be moved to Madrid, Spain, because of serious public unrest in Chile. Thunberg has refused to fly because of the carbon emissions from air travel, so she posted on social media that she needed a ride across the Atlantic Ocean. Riley Whitelum and his wife, Elayna Carausu, two Australians who had been sailing around the world aboard their 48-foot (15 m) catamaran, La Vagabonde, offered to take her. So, on 13 November 2019, Thunberg set sail from Hampton, Virginia, for Lisbon, Portugal. Her departing message was the same as it has been since she began her activism: “My message to the Americans is the same as to everyone – that is to unite behind the science and to act on the science.”
Thunberg arrived in the Port of Lisbon on 3 December 2019, then travelled on to Madrid to speak at COP25 and to participate with the local Fridays for Future climate strikers. During a press conference before the march, she called for more “concrete action,” arguing that the global wave of school strikes over the previous year had “achieved nothing”, because greenhouse gas emissions were still rising—by 4% since 2015.
Further activism in Europe
On 30 December 2019 Thunberg was guest editor of the BBC Radio’s flagship current affairs programme, the Today Programme. Thunberg’s edition of the programme featured interviews on climate change with Sir David Attenborough, Bank of England chief Mark Carney, Massive Attack’s Robert Del Naja, and Shell Oil executive Maarten Wetselaar. The BBC subsequently released a podcast containing these interviews and other highlights. On 11 January 2020 Thunberg called on German company Siemens to stop the delivery of railway equipment to the controversial Carmichael coal mine operated by a subsidiary of Indian company Adani Group in Australia, but on 13 January Siemens said that it would continue to honour its contract with Adani.
On 21 January 2020, Thunberg returned to the World Economic Forum held in Davos, Switzerland, delivered two speeches, and participated in panel discussions hosted by The New York Times and the World Economic Forum. Thunberg used many of the themes contained in her previous speeches, but focused on one in particular: “Our house is still on fire.” Thunberg joked that she cannot complain about not being heard, saying: “I am being heard all the time.” 
On 4 March 2020, Thunberg attended an extraordinary meeting of the European Parliament’s Environment Committee to talk about the European Climate Law. There she declared that she considered the new proposal for a climate law published by the European Commission to be a surrender.
Position on climate change
Thunberg believes that humanity is facing an existential crisis because of global warming and holds the current generation of adults responsible for creating the problem. She uses graphic analogies (such as “our house is on fire”) to highlight her concerns and often speaks bluntly to business and political leaders about their failure to take concerted action.
Thunberg has pointed out that climate change will have a disproportionate effect on young people whose futures will be profoundly affected. She argued that her generation may not have a future any more, because “that future was sold so that a small number of people could make unimaginable amounts of money”. She also has made the point that people in the Global South will suffer most from climate change, even though they have contributed least in terms of carbon dioxide emissions. Thunberg has voiced support for other young activists from developing countries who are already facing the damaging effects of climate change. Speaking in Madrid in December 2019, she said: “We talk about our future, they talk about their present.”
Speaking at international forums, she berated world leaders that too little action is being taken to reduce global emissions. She makes the point that lowering emissions is not enough, and says emissions need to be reduced to zero if the world is to keep global warming to less than 1.5C. Speaking to the British Parliament in April 2019, she said: “The fact that we are speaking of “lowering” instead of “stopping” emissions is perhaps the greatest force behind the continuing business as usual”. In order to take the necessary action, she added that politicians should not listen to her, they should listen to what the scientists are saying about how to address the crisis.
More specifically, Thunberg has argued that commitments made at the Paris Agreement are insufficient to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees, and that the greenhouse gas emissions curve needs to start declining steeply no later than 2020—as detailed in the IPCC’s 2018 Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5° C. In February 2019, at a conference of the European Economic and Social Committee, she said that the EU’s current intention to cut emissions by 40% by 2030 is “not sufficient to protect the future for children growing up today” and that the EU must reduce their CO
2 emissions by 80%, double the 40% goal.
Public response and impact
Thunberg has received both strong support and strong criticism for her work from politicians and the press.
In February 2019, 224 academics signed an open letter of support stating they were inspired by Thunberg’s actions and the striking school children in making their voices heard. United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres endorsed the school strikes initiated by Thunberg, admitting that “My generation has failed to respond properly to the dramatic challenge of climate change. This is deeply felt by young people. No wonder they are angry.” Speaking at an event in New Zealand in May 2019, Guterres said his generation was “not winning the battle against climate change” and that it’s up to youth to “rescue the planet”.
Presidential candidates Kamala Harris, Beto O’Rourke, and Bernie Sanders expressed support after her speech at the September 2019 action summit in New York. German Chancellor Angela Merkel indicated that young activists like Thunberg had driven her government to act faster on climate change.
Thunberg and her campaign have been criticised by politicians as well, such as the Australian prime minister Scott Morrison, German chancellor Angela Merkel, Russian president Vladimir Putin, OPEC (Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries) and repeatedly by U.S. president Donald Trump. The criticism ranges from personal attacks to claims she oversimplifies the complex issues involved.
“It’s quite hilarious when the only thing people can do is mock you, or talk about your appearance or personality, as it means they have no argument or nothing else to say.”
— Greta Thunberg
Person of the Year
TIME magazine October 2019
In October 2019, Vladimir Putin described Thunberg as a “kind girl and very sincere”, while suggesting she was being manipulated to serve others’ interests. Putin criticised her as “poorly informed”: “No one has explained to Greta that the modern world is complex and different and people in Africa or in many Asian countries want to live at the same wealth level as in Sweden.” Similar to her reaction to Trump, Thunberg updated her Twitter bio to reflect Putin’s description of her. In December 2019, Thunberg tweeted “Indigenous people are literally being murdered for trying to protect the forrest [sic] from illegal deforestation. Over and over again. It is shameful that the world remains silent about this”. When asked about this subject two days later, Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro responded: “Greta said that the Indians were dying because they were trying to protect the Amazon. It is impressive how the press gives voice to such a brat.” On the same day, Thunberg changed her Twitter description to “pirralha“, the Portuguese word for “brat” used by Bolsonaro.
In September 2019, Donald Trump shared a video of Thunberg angrily addressing world leaders, along with her quote that “people are dying, entire ecosystems are collapsing. We are in the beginning of a mass extinction“. Trump wrote about Thunberg, tweeting: “She seems like a very happy young girl looking forward to a bright and wonderful future. So nice to see!” Thunberg reacted by changing her Twitter bio to match his description, and stating that she could not “understand why grown-ups would choose to mock children and teenagers for just communicating and acting on the science when they could do something good instead.” In December 2019, President Trump again mocked Thunberg after she was named Person of the Year for 2019 by Time magazine: “So ridiculous”, Trump tweeted. “Greta must work on her anger management problem, then go to a good old fashioned movie with a friend! Chill Greta, Chill!” Thunberg responded by changing her Twitter biography to: “A teenager working on her anger management problem. Currently chilling and watching a good old fashioned movie with a friend.”
In an interview with Suyin Haynes in Time magazine, Thunberg addressed the criticism she has received online saying: “It’s quite hilarious when the only thing people can do is mock you, or talk about your appearance or personality, as it means they have no argument or nothing else to say.” Joe Biden, a former US vice president and 2020 Democratic presidential frontrunner, responded to President Trump’s tweet mocking Thunberg after she was named Person of the Year 2019 by Time magazine tweeting: “What kind of president bullies a teenager? @realDonaldTrump, you could learn a few things from Greta on what it means to be a leader.”
In August 2019, Scott Walsman wrote in Scientific American that Thunberg’s detractors have “launched personal attacks”, “bash [her] autism”, and “increasingly rely on ad hominem attacks to blunt her influence.” Writing in The Guardian, Aditya Chakrabortty said that columnists including Brendan O’Neill, Toby Young, the blog Guido Fawkes, as well as Helen Dale and Rod Liddle at The Spectator and The Sunday Times had been making “ugly personal attacks” on Thunberg. British TV presenter Piers Morgan also mocked Thunberg. As part of its climate change denial, Germany’s right wing Alternative for Germany party has attacked Thunberg “in fairly vicious ways”, according to Jakob Guhl, a researcher for the Institute for Strategic Dialogue.
Arron Banks‘ Twitter post saying that “freak yachting accidents do happen in August…” outraged a number of British MPs (Member of Parliament), celebrities and academics. Tanja Bueltmann, founder of EU Citizens’ Champion, said Banks had “invoked the drowning of a child” for his own amusement and said that most of those attacking Thunberg “are white middle-aged men from the right of the political spectrum”. Writing in The Guardian, Gaby Hinsliff, said Thunberg has become “the new front in the Brexit culture war” arguing that the outrage generated by personal attacks on Thunberg by Brexiteers “gives them the welcome oxygen of publicity”.
“The Greta effect”
Thunberg has inspired a number of her school-aged peers in what has been described as “The Greta effect”. In response to her outspoken stance, various politicians have also acknowledged the need to focus on climate change. Britain’s secretary for the environment, Michael Gove, said: “When I listened to you, I felt great admiration, but also responsibility and guilt. I am of your parents’ generation, and I recognise that we haven’t done nearly enough to address climate change and the broader environmental crisis that we helped to create.” Labour politician Ed Miliband, who was responsible for introducing the Climate Change Act 2008, said: “You have woken us up. We thank you. All the young people who have gone on strike have held up a mirror to our society … you have taught us all a really important lesson. You have stood out from the crowd.”
In February 2019, Thunberg shared a stage with the then President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, where he outlined “In the next financial period from 2021 to 2027, every fourth euro spent within the EU budget will go towards action to mitigate climate change”. Climate issues also played a significant role in European Parliament election in May 2019 as Green parties recorded their best ever result, boosting their MEP seat numbers from 52 to 72. Many of the gains came from northern European countries where young people have taken to the streets inspired by Thunberg.
In June 2019, a YouGov poll in Britain found that public concern about the environment had soared to record levels in the UK since Thunberg and Extinction Rebellion had “pierced the bubble of denial”. In August 2019, publication and sales of children’s books about the climate crisis reportedly doubled compared to the previous year. Publishers attribute this to the “Greta effect”. Inspired by Thunberg, wealthy philanthropists and investors from the United States have donated about $600,000 to support Extinction Rebellion and school strike groups to establish the Climate Emergency Fund. Trevor Neilson, one of the philanthropists, said the three founders would be contacting friends among the global mega-rich to donate “a hundred times” more in the weeks and months ahead. In December 2019, the New Scientist described the impact made by Thunberg and Extinction Rebellion with the headline: “The year the world woke up to climate change”.
Thunberg has spearheaded the anti-flying movement, promoting train travel over flying on environmental grounds. The buzzword associated with this movement is flygskam or ‘flight shame’. It is a phenomenon in which people feel social pressure not to fly because of the rising greenhouse gas emissions of the airline industry. It was originally championed by Swedish Olympic athlete Björn Ferry, but has gained significant momentum after Thunberg’s refusal to fly on environmental grounds. Thunberg backed the campaign to fly less, and made it part of her 2019 “awareness tour” in Europe. Sweden has reported a 4% drop in domestic air travel for 2019 and an increase in rail use. The BBC says that the movement could halve the growth of global air travel, but Airbus and Boeing say that they still expect to grow at around 4% until 2035. In June 2019, Swedish Railways (SJ) reported that the number of Swedes taking the train for domestic journeys had risen by 8% from the previous year, reflecting growing public concern (reflected in a survey published by the Swedish Railways) about the impact of flying on CO