Saving the World

Greta Thunberg, a name one year ago nobody had ever heard of. Today the young Swedish climate activist’s image is everywhere. Here is one of the latest from her facebook page :

School strike week 52.

69031467_894604544240700_8117994793717465088_nPos 47 degrees 17 minutes north and 13 degrees 17 minutes west,
which for non-sailors is in the middle of the Atlantic.

Greta has in just one year become a global phenomenon. I have never in my lifetime seen anything like it. Out of her well researched and deeply held concern for the future of our planet and the inaction of decision makers she decided one Friday in August 2018 to wag school and sit down in front of the Swedish Parliament.

1-Gq7IsTUc7tv8ybRlpmG3kwSince then the sixteen your old looking more like fourteen who has Asperger Syndrome has morphed from the “silent child at the back of the class” to a worldwide celebrity gracing among others the cover of time magazine.

Climate Activism as Therapy

Asperger Syndrome is a developmental disorder characterised by significant difficulties in social interaction, often high intelligence and with the “pursuit of specific and narrow areas of interest”. In Greta’s case it has lead her to concentrate on climate change probably like no other of her generation. She really knows her stuff. It made her so concerned that she became depressed, developed an eating disorder and stopped speaking for quite some time. Fortunately her parents supported her all the way. In her words “Asperger is not a disease, it’s a gift.”
She reflects on her actions : “Before I felt lonely, both because of Asperger’s Syndrome … I don’t like socialising but also because it felt like I was the only one who cared about the climate and the ecological crisis. No-one I knew cared about this and I felt I was the only one. It makes me fell good that I’m not alone in this fight and it feels like my life has gotten some kind of meaning lately.” (facebook)

I try to imagine what has happened to this “child” in such short time and how it must affect her. Greta goes on dealing with everything calmly with reason, clarity, grace and passion, which put the rest of us to shame. Every piece of footage and writing I have seen shows her enduring the frenzy of media attention to put climate emergency at the centre. Again her Asperger condition must be a blessing.
Obviously this last year was good for her. You can see it. This is not the silent child in the back of the class any-more.

A handout picture shows Greta and her father Svante Thunberg meeting with Boris Herrmann from sailing Team Malizia at the Swedish ambassador's residence in Paris, France, July 22, 2019. Picture taken July 22, 2019. Christian Krug/Team Malizia/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES. MANDATORY CREDIT.

Greta and her father Svante Thunberg meeting with Boris Herrmann from sailing Team Malizia

Critics and Haters

There is the usual cohort of haters from the fossil fuel climate change denier camp desperately clinging on to the do nothing status quo. Greta understands that this hatred comes with the territory and is a sign of the growing success of her campaign. The Greta Effect is now recognised as a “thing”. For instance in Sweden air travel reduced by 10 % because of the Greta Effect. The recent European elections had the surprising success of the Greens across the board attributed to the Greta Effect. At local body elections in my old home town of Hamburg the Greens became the strongest party in four out of seven districts, which had firmly been in social democratic hands forever. The voting age was lowered to sixteen and Greta had been at a huge – Friday for Future – rally in the city earlier in the year. No wonder that the haters see the writing on the wall and double their vitriolic efforts.

However the most annoying “critics” are the patronising nitpickers. For the benefit of the German Spiegel Magazine, which has a few of those the word is “Korinthenkacker”. It means literally someone unable to do a decent dump instead only craps currants.
I mean the people who interview her during a train trip criticising her for eating some vegetarian on board food because it was wrapped in – shock horror – plastic ! I mean the people who are seriously trying to calculate the carbon footprint of her transatlantic trip making it out to be the great PR disaster by including several flights to get the yacht ready and in place, including the construction of this high-tech carbon fibre racing machine, including the travel of all the media to Plymouth to report on her departure. The people who tell us that her Atlantic crossing is not clean because the “Malizzia II” has a a diesel engine, a safety requirement for yachts of her type. Next they will calculate the carbon footprint of her train travel by including the rails made of steel using coal during the manufacturing. In the end these people would really like her to stop breathing because that too produces CO2.

The last thing these nitpickers want to talk about is climate change. In the US a recent study found that the birth of the English prince Archie got more media coverage in a couple of weeks than climate change in a whole year. If it takes another child to take notice of the most critical issue facing us all so be it.

Racing across the Atlantic

The most insightful observations about Greta came from experienced skipper Boris Herrmann. Never before a total novice attempted to cross the Atlantic in a racing yacht. Greta accepted the opportunity/challenge without fear. Herrmann observed it coming from the strength of her conviction that things had to change accepting that for herself leaving her comfort zone. Matter-of-factly she talked about the food and the bucket she would have to use. While her critics would not even need a bucket shitting their pants in the middle of the ocean.

Go Greta ! Have a safe trip !
I am looking forward to your acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Price as it will be like all your speeches to the point and not longer than a few minutes.

Dr. Hans B. Grueber
20 August 2019


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