Greta isn’t the ‘fanatic’ we need to fear

Jan 2020

There’s something about the 17-year-old climate change activist that enrages a certain breed of man. First lambasted as a ‘hysterical child’ with ‘mental illnesses’, Greta Thunberg is now branded as a fanatic who is harming the movement against climate change. But where does the origin of blame lie?


Teen climate change activist Greta Thunberg is targeted by powerful men, who place the wants of the few over the needs of the many. In her latest run-in with US President Donald Trump, Thunberg was labelled a “prophet of doom.”


Trump sells himself as a bearer of glad tidings, boasting of the economic success of the US. He rails against Thunberg and her following, framing them as pessimistic, megalomaniac eco-warriors. 


At the World Economic Forum at Davos, Trump said of Thunberg: "These alarmists always demand the same thing - absolute power to dominate, transform and control every aspect of our lives”.


‘Reborn fanatic’


Where she was once cast off as a ‘hysterical child’, Thunberg’s speech at the UN Climate Change Summit in September 2019 put her into the public zeitgeist, and the name-calling took a new tack. Thunberg the ‘fanatic’ was born.


Rightly so; extreme events call for extreme rhetoric. The world is burning, sea levels are rising, and the earth faces collapse. Moderation will not capture hearts and minds.


But to say that Thunberg has harmed the movement against climate change is simply not true. In the past year, thousands have pledged to stop flying; green issues have risen on political agendas; and millions have taken to the streets demanding action. ‘Flyskam’ (Swedish for ‘plane shame’) was declared the word of the year. Despite her youth providing ‘a shield against debate’, there is more discussion around the topic than ever before.


Spread of climate denial


In the US, the debate has not always been so politically divided. Until the 1980s, politicians on both sides of the aisle were in agreement on the existence and severity of climate change. But a handful of right-wing industrialist billionaires, led by brothers Charles and David Koch, sabotaged the narrative. Realising that they would lose millions if emission regulations were implemented, the Kochs poured money into discrediting scientists and opponents. In one such case, Koch Industries sunk the campaign of Republican Bob Inglish, after he proposed a carbon tax bill. After donating to an opponent and organising protests against him, Inglis was ousted, serving as an example to other Republicans. 


Climate change denial is currently used to deepen societal divides. In Germany, the Alternative für Deutschland (AfD), have used denial as a tool to gain voters, declaring that it is an elitist, industry-destroying concern. Climate change must be prevented from becoming a tribalistic issue, and common ground between sides must be found.


It is not the ‘fanatical’ 17 year old that we need fear, but the zealots that put profit above the lives of their fellow humans.