Swedish teen activist Greta Thunberg has set sail in a zero-emissions yacht for a two-week journey across the Atlantic Ocean to speak at the UN’s climate summit. This is, of course, embarrassing and ridiculous for the U.N., and for adults everyone. Thunberg , who is 16, founded the student climate-strike movement. As with Greta’s US equivalent, the Parkland anti-gun scold Parkland kids, Thunberg has nothing to recommend her as a legitimate authority on anything. She has multiple learning disabilities; she has no training in climate science or physics beyond what would be serviceable in a high school science fair. All she has is certitude, which is a hallmark of childhood and innocence as well as progressive, and a willingness to be exploited, sort of like Joan of Arc.
That’s not a bad comp, really. As Brendan O’Neill writes in Spiked,
Anyone who doubts that the green movement is morphing into a millenarian cult should take a close look at Greta Thunberg. This poor young woman increasingly looks and sounds like a cult member. The monotone voice. The look of apocalyptic dread in her eyes. The explicit talk of the coming great ‘fire’ that will punish us for our eco-sins. There is something chilling and positively pre-modern about Ms Thunberg. One can imagine her in a sparse wooden church in the Plymouth Colony in the 1600s warning parishioners of the hellfire that will rain upon them if they fail to give up their witches.
That’s about right, and climate change activism has been behaving increasingly cult-like over the years. A child- leader was probably inevitable. It is also damning, again like the anti-gun movement’s reliance on children. If you can’t win your argument with facts—remember, the issue in question isn’t whether the earth is currently warming, but rather for how long, at what pace, to what effect, and whether there is anything realistic that can or should be done about it—then pivot to emotion, fervor, and lovable messengers.
I wondered if someone else (other than me) had made the comparison between the climate change movement stooping to using children as spear points and the unethical practice of using kids as human shields, and finally checked today. Shoot, I wasn’t the first…but then again, it’s an easy analogy.
In the Guardian, apparently muddle-headed philsopher (but then, aren’t they all?) Julian Baggini showed how this works. He wrote to condemn the appropriate criticism of Thunberg, which he regards as “morally bankrupt,”
Shooting the messenger is, of course, a tried and tested way of dealing with bad news. The case that the anthropogenic climate crisis is real and urgent is now so strong that it’s pretty much the only tactic left for those who refuse to accept it. Thunberg is a particularly tempting target. [One critic] made much of the fact that she is “someone with disorders which intensify fears”. This is deeply reassuring for people who think anyone who is afraid for the future of the planet is overreacting. “Eco-anxiety” can be dismissed as a pathology rather than as a rational response to a growing emergency. Thunberg has become exhibit A for those like O’Neill who want to rebrand the environmental cause as “climate-change alarmism”. They see in Thunberg someone who makes this dismissive charge seem plausible. Why try to criticize thousands of sober, grownup scientists when you can have a go at a pig-tailed Young Turk instead?
That last sentence says is self-indicting. Why resort to a relatively ignorant teen if there are adult scientists who can make the case legitimately? That’s the problem with Greta. Whether she realizes it or not, she is a walking, talking, sailing, appeal to emotion, “Think of the Children!” in human form, and blissfully immune from being criticized for wasting our time and warping the debate.
Writes Baggini, who defends Greta while apparently realizes that her prominence in the climate change movement is a problem—except apparently only people like him can say so—
Making a young and idealistic teenager the figurehead of a movement makes it too easy to dismiss the campaign as a whole as naive and idealistic.
Ya think? Maybe that’s because the campaign as a whole is naive.
Indeed, the commentator Christopher Caldwell, who is supportive of the cause, worries that the rallying around Thunberg reflects a refusal to engage with complexity. “People have had enough of balance and perspective,” he wrote in the New York Times, “They want single-minded devotion to the task at hand.” That is exactly what Thunberg has come to represent.
No, that’s what she IS. Caldwell’s claim that the climate change activists have ever been interested in “balance and perspective” is risible. When was that, exactly? I seem to recall skeptics of models that had the Earth drowning and burning up decades ago being compared to Holocaust deniers. That’s perspective, all right.
Greta herself has become a master at the unethical technique of criticizing conduct while she’s engaging in it. (You know, like Democrats saying that President Trump is dividing the nation and threatening democracy. Just an example for clarity…) Before shoving off to the UN, she said of world leaders such as Trump that “instead of speaking to me and the school-striking children and teenagers, they should be talking to actual scientists and experts in this area.” Why are school children making demands of leaders if they understand that as kid, they aren’t worth arguing with? If they shouldn’t be talking to you, and they shouldn’t, since you couldn’t explain the assumptions in a climate change projection model if your life depended on it (and neither could I), why are you speaking to the U.N.?
In another interview, she told a German broadcaster, “I think there is a lot of focus on me as an individual and not on the climate itself I think we should focus more on the climate issue because this is not about me.” Wait, it’s not your idea to make a grandstanding carbon-eschewing boat trip to the U.N.? If you don’t want people to make it about you, why are you making it about you?
And by the way, have you ever suggested to your jet-setting allies like Leonardo DiCaprio and Prince Andrew that they should be using yachts rather than private jets? Did I miss that?
Baginni writes, ” [T]he excessive zealotry of some of her supporters is a trifling fault compared to the egregious attacks by critics who would rather take her on than the inconvenient truths she brings.” What a stunningly dishonest sentence! She has no “truths” to bring whatsoever. She is simply assuming that ideological cant that she has been programed to believe is true. O’Neill:
They have pumped her – and millions of other children – with the politics of fear. They have convinced the next generation that the planet is on the cusp of doom. They have injected dread into the youth. ‘I want you to panic’, said Ms Thunberg at Davos, and the billionaires and celebs and marauding NGOs that were in attendance all lapped it up. Because adult society loves nothing more than having its own fear and confusions obediently parroted back to it by teenagers.
Bingo. And Baggini is seriously arguing that a fake messenger who carries a message she doesn’t understand but has the audacity to promote should be immune from criticism.
We should recognize such child heralds as what they are, human engines of public policy debate manipulation by unscrupulous and desperate activists. We should disregard and distrust any adults who give these children a forum or legitimacy. As for the child army of puppets like Thumberg, O’Neill has it right again…
Young people, Ms Thunberg isn’t your leader. She’s a patsy for scared and elitist adults. Don’t do as she says. Instead, refuse to panic, mock the blather about hellfire, and appreciate that mankind’s transformation of the planet has been a glorious thing that has expanded life expectancy, allowed billions to live in cities, and made it possible for even the less well-off to travel the globe. Sin against St Greta.