Greta Thunberg And The Climate Change Debate

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On October 10 an interesting podcast was published on UncommonGroundMedia, analysing, “the validity of the criticisms by people who acknowledge climate change as a problem, and environmental activism as desirable, but are nevertheless vehemently critical of Greta on various grounds, including her youth, her white identity, and the perception of her as a puppet.”

On the same website, I defended Greta Thunberg on the grounds that what she said and the way she said it, were far more important than who she is or what people perceive her to be. Below is my response to various points that were brought up in the podcast.

 

The fundamental problem concerning climate change has little to do with trusting the media or believing in and acting on, various scientific models. From scientific and moral points of view, for something as important and potentially destructive as the effects of climate change, the worse case scenario, as expressed by Greta Thunberg and others, must be taken seriously and acted upon. There is no place for underestimating the consequences of doing nothing or too little. It is not akin to an action of panic or scaremongering but is the eradication of the worst predisposing factors in a multifactorial disease, no matter what our views are on the rate of disease progression and its consequences.

Scientists try to model what will happen in the future by analysing what has happened in the past. Unfortunately, like any projection, predicting the effects of climate change will always be subject to personal beliefs, interpretations, and – dare I say it – interests.

Those who deny climate change or doubt that the rate at which climate change is occurring is sufficiently worrying to require drastic action, do so for reasons that are inherent to human nature. The main stumbling block in tackling climate change is related to our reticence to apply the necessary changes to our global and individual ways of life. This reticence is independent of the situation’s urgency and is more related to financial considerations and the desire to maintain our present lifestyle patterns.

Climate change is multifactorial comprising so many variable parameters and risk factors that any projection made can be easily subject to doubt and discredited. But no one can deny that climate is not changing, that winters are not getting warmer, that ice caps are not melting. We can only argue with one another about the rate of change, its final consequences, and what we should do about it.

The question of whether Greta Thunberg has been “platformed,” by the media occults the true nature of what she said and how she said it. It matters not one iota if the media accidentally fell across a school girl who could make the headlines or whether she was knowingly put to the forefront in order to gain attention and sell newspapers. Welcome to the real world, Greta, the warped world of adults where everything you do or say must have an ulterior motive or negative consequences for the movement you represent, however noble or naive its causes are. This is a world where 3-year-old children will not be able to celebrate Saint Nicholas and his helpers in true tradition for fear of being racist. It is a world where a 16-year-old, however autistic she may be, gets into trouble for, in her own way, questioning the ability of adults to act fast on a world where animal species are becoming extinct and trees are disappearing. 

We are too comfortable with the way we live and we tend to just think about today, have faint concerns about tomorrow and completely forget about next week. It is an attitude that is inherent to our societies and we are all guilty – including myself – of this nonchalance towards our environment. But such is the complexity of the problems at hand, that arguments can be raised for and against practically any aspect of the climate-related problems we face – if we think that we face problems, that is.

Greta Thunberg captured the attention of the world in the same way that the three-year-old Syrian refugee Alan Kurdi, who drowned in the Mediterranean sea did in 2015. Greta Thunberg is a child in revolt. Alan Kurdi is a child who lost his childhood. Both as a result of the absurd actions of adults. In Albert Camus’ novel The Plague, Docteur Rieux, having seen the death of others on so many occasions, cannot accept the cruel death of an innocent child, and lashes out on a priest who had asked for God to spare the child.

Rieux turned to Paneloux.

“That’s right,” he said. “Excuse me. But fatigue is madness. And there are times in this city where I feel nothing but my revolt.”

“I understand,” Paneloux murmured. “This is outrageous because it goes beyond what we can measure. But perhaps we must love what we cannot understand.”

Rieux straightened and looked at Paneloux with all the strength and passion he could muster and shook his head.

“No, father,” he said. “I have another idea of ​​love. And I will refuse until my death to love this creation where children are tortured.”

(adapted from La Peste by Albert Camus)

Yes, Greta, it’s time for you and your buddies to stick that chewing gum under the classroom chair and haul ass on climate change. And I’ll tell you something else – the world elite are just asking to be kicked where it hurts most – in their way of life and in their pride. Good on you, Greta! High five!