The figure of Greta Thunberg is part of a polarized global confrontation and, at the same time, her speech contributed to mobilizing and raising awareness about the climate crisis and the future of the planet.
Some are fascinated with her: they see her as a heroine, as a Joan of Arc of modern times or as a Mafalda, a political girl who defends the preservation of planet Earth and who seems more intelligent than her parents. Others are angry: they see in her a naive puppet of opaque adult interests. They make fun of her. Young environmentalist Greta Thunberg became a new global figure. Depending on the political point of view of the observer, it is defended or hated. On September 20, 2019, the movement #FridaysforFuture , inspired and encouraged by the Swedish teenager, celebrated its largest mass mobilization to date. In almost every country in the world, young people and adults took to the streets. It is estimated that some four million people have been mobilized around the globe.
Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old student, has been known in Europe for a year. In the United States he rose to fame last month. Many Americans first saw her when she appeared on the Trevor Noah Daily Show. There, he explained with his known seriousness that the world had very little time left, more precisely eight and a half years, because as of January 1, 2018, only 420 gigatons of carbon dioxide remained to be burned. Now only 360 gigatons remain, and in eight and a half years the budget would run out if the current level of emissions is maintained.
In addition to her youth, Greta Thunberg has become popular for her knowledge of the climate and environmental situation, for the firmness of her convictions and for the actions she takes. Commentators claim that this is where his power to become an icon lies.
Greta Thunberg is the great global face of this movement. And their presence is not without impact. In August 2019, when he embarked on his trip from Europe to New York on a ship that does not produce carbon dioxide emissions, he caused a furor in the media and in the political world. Furthermore, his speeches at the World Climate Conference in Katowice, Poland in December 2018 and at the World Economic Forum in Davos put the world's powerful people in an uncomfortable situation. The young woman with braids launched her slogans ("act" or "panic") and attracted everyone's attention. Especially that of the European media. But his presence at the demonstrations in New York and Washington, the meeting with Barack Obama, the appearance at the Daily Show and her speech to the United Nations General Assembly on September 23 also made her a popular figure in the United States.
The mass movement led by Greta Thunberg dates back to the "school strike" of August 20, 2018. That day, instead of going to school, she sat in front of the Swedish Parliament in order to draw attention to the danger that climate change represented for future generations. His intervention produced an avalanche effect. Within a few months, a mass movement known as #FridaysforFuture, which reached its first peak in March 2019 with 1.5 million adolescents and young people who took to the streets to protest and demand a change in attitude regarding the climate situation. The movement is global, but its center is in the North. And although in many countries the movement is led by adolescent women, in no other country in the world is the symbiosis between the movement and a person as clear as in the case of Greta Thunberg.
The activist sparked not only a political movement, but also a powerful media furor. The media and commentators are obsessed with her. According to some observers, the veneration of Greta Thunberg is similar to phenomena associated with religious awakening. But this is not her problem. It is, on the contrary, a problem of the people and the media that react to your action and your words. While on the political spectrum of environmentalism, much of the left and in the academic world profess sympathy, the right and not a few liberals deny Greta Thunberg and her colleagues the right to formulate their own political ideas and goals, treating them as immature and spoiled. For the Argentine journalist Sandra Russo, this is the first case of "global bullying", a characterization made long before Donald Trump's tweet of September 23, in which the president of the United States made fun of a 16-year-old teenager from another country.
The critique that Greta Thunberg's ideas on climate would potentially be "undemocratic" since they do not give rise to real political engagement is based on the idea that politics works "one step at a time, always on the path of compromise." However, this position can be seen as a form of soft paternalism. Greta Thunberg's stinging denunciations do not fall into a vacuum, they are stark political interventions with the aim of polarizing public opinion. His statement that "the poverty of the many pays the wealth of the few" is, according to some commentators on the extreme right, "the product of a socialization and an educational system" like the Swedish, that is, "of the left", which would contain a lots of stupid criticism of capitalism.
Other critics denounce that behind the young Swedish woman, fanatic environmentalist fathers (and mothers) or the lobbies of "green capitalism." More concretely, We Don’t Have Time AB, a Swedish company for environmental projects founded in 2017 by public relations specialist Ingmar Rentzhog, which gave extensive coverage to the school strikes that Greta Thunberg carried out in 2018. On November 27 of that year, We Don’t Have Time AB announced an issue of securities on the stock exchange and in the advertising brochure the company mentioned Greta Thunberg 11 times. At the beginning of this year, she and her family assured that they no longer have contact with the firm. Others point to the inevitable George Soros, the specter of the global alt-right.
Everything seems to indicate that the more popular and disruptive the climate movement becomes, the more virulent is the rejection of those who consider climate change a conspiracy of fanatics and climate protection as sheer nonsense. The severity of the reactions towards a 16-year-old adolescent should make us reflect. Some psychologists try to explain that it is quite unlikely "the 'old' white man will change his attitude towards protecting the environment", so he has to attack Greta because of her illness, because of her age or because of the apparent manipulation of her activism . But behind the criticism there is much more than the intransigence of an entire generational male cohort. The attacks may be the sign that she and the youth of the movement have managed to hit a sore spot in the core of power. Does Greta Thunberg question the system?
At the climate conference in Katowice in December 2018, the young Swede stressed that politics had not yet understood the severity of the climate crisis. Since the political class acts irresponsibly, it is up to the younger generation to take charge of their future and do what adult politics should have done long ago. It is the task of young people to understand what previous generations have done to climate change and to respond to the chaos they have inherited. Young people must make sure their voices are heard.
In all her speeches, Greta Thunberg makes it clear that, if they do not take real and concrete measures to face the current situation, politicians will be acting irresponsibly. He argues that rich nations have a greater obligation to reduce emissions faster. He demands that countries like Sweden reduce their fossil fuel emissions by 15% annually. And that rich countries reduce their steel emissions within six to twelve years. This would allow emerging economies such as India and Nigeria sufficient time to upgrade their infrastructure.
The main concern of the movement #FridaysforFutureIt is, therefore, that climate protection measures be adopted in the broadest, fastest and most efficient way possible, in order to achieve the objective of limiting the temperature increase to 1.5 ºC, a limit established at the United Nations Conference. on Climate Change that was held in Paris in 2015 (COP 21) and adopted by the UN. These positions do not seem to question the system itself; They are simply a call to reason and the fulfillment of already established objectives.
The persuasiveness of the movement does not arise from theoretical positions (as in 1968), but simply from "saying what happens." In other words, to insist on the fact that, as the reports of the Intergovernmental Group of Experts on Climate Change (IPCC) point out, the climate crisis has worsened in the last 20 years and, despite this , politics is doing very little to change course. German climate activist Luisa Neubauer comments that “the battlefield is among those who benefit most from the status quo and those who lose the most ». And he adds: “We young people ask ourselves: why are things the way they are when they could simply be different? And we have to do it at full volume because we have absolutely nothing to lose except our future.
The battlefield is among those who benefit most from the status quo and those who lose the most »
In the movement that Greta symbolizes, there is enough potential for generational conflict: voters of the future are mobilizing against the interests of the present. And they are not alone. Many adults are willing to change their behavior and also demand a different policy. This was demonstrated in the large participation of adults in the demonstrations on September 20.
The young Swedish woman managed to create a mass mobilization through her statements, actions on public roads and intervention in the media, her goal is not and cannot be to solve the climate crisis. But he has achieved a more immediate resounding political success: a widespread and global awareness of the urgency of climate change. What he says and does already influences political debates in different countries and the first steps, still tentative, in the right direction can be seen. Without her, this would hardly be happening.
The European Green Party is one of the main beneficiaries of the advertising, strikes and demonstrations of the climate movement.In Germany, the Greens obtained 20.5% of the votes in the 2019 European elections and 33% of the votes of those under 30 years. The electoral behavior of young people is not only an expression of their sympathy for the environmental cause; It is also a reflection of the deep crisis that the German Social Democracy is going through. Many citizens poison the concerns of the movement #FridaysforFuture the same causes as the Greens, despite the fact that at present this party is quite far from the radicalism expressed by its founders.
The fact that in party congresses green politicians applaud the critical stances of the younger generation - expressing a strong rejection of the decisions of the adult generation - could be seen as a pedantic or flattering form of underestimation that, hopefully, not yet underestimated. plus representative democracy.
GretaThunberg and the new climate movement created a new political subject. They will need a lot of patience to continue their campaign. The fascination with the novelty of the phenomenon and personal magnetism will gradually lose strength and interest and the wave of sympathy from the beginning will also weaken. The traditional media and social networks of today are not characterized by their perseverance. Greta Thunberg will go back to school. Your generation has a lifetime ahead of it. If anything shows this movement, it is democratic commitment. Hopefully the majority of young people say no to fatalism and resignation. It is also to be hoped that the time will come when people become aware that the environmental issue cannot be resolved by separating it from the economic and social issue. The two are inextricably linked and form part of the same problem.
Greta begins to be known in Latin America. The urgency of social and economic crises in many countries in the region puts environmental issues on the back burner. The Swedish teenager announced that in December 2019 she will travel from the United States to Chile for COP 25. We still do not know how she will make that trip without producing polluting emissions. This distance is greater than the one that separates Europe from New York and there are no rail lines that allow to travel that long journey. This is for now an enigma. Regardless, it can be assumed that this new challenge will bring Greta closer to the enormous social problems of Latin America. The trip to Chile will open her eyes to another reality very different from the one she knows, a reality that I hope will help her see more clearly to what extent the environmental issue and the economic issue are two sides of the same coin. In New York, at the headquarters of the United Nations, he has already taken a step in this direction when he exclaimed with a trembling voice to the heads of the world:
"How dare they! We are at the beginning of a mass extinction and the only thing you can talk about is money and the fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare they!".
Source: New Society