Here’s an in-depth look at Greta Thunberg and the #schoolstrike4climate movement that she inspired. Click through and read the whole article. Here’s an excerpt:
“It seems like the people in power have given up,” says Thunberg, taking her hat off and pushing back her mussed up brown-blond hair. She remains on message despite the tourists and teens taking her picture and mugging behind us. “They say it’s too hard — it’s too much of a challenge. But that’s what we are doing here. We have not given up because this is a matter of life and death for countless people.”
It was my second encounter with Greta in three weeks. Back in January, before the Coronavirus brought the world to its knees, forcing Greta to move her Friday protests online, she was in Davos, Switzerland, for the annual conference of the World Economic Forum, where billionaires helo into the Swiss resort town and talk about solving the world’s problems without making their lives any harder. Thunberg had appeared last year and made her now iconic
“Our House Is on Fire” speech, in which she declared the climate crisis to be the mortal threat to our planet. Solve it or all the other causes — feminism, human rights, and economic justice — would not matter.
“Either we choose to go on as a civilization or we don’t,” said Thunberg with cold precision. “That is as black or white as it gets. There are no gray areas when it comes to survival.”
The speech made Thunberg the unlikely and reluctant hero of the climate crisis. She crossed the ocean in a sailboat — she doesn’t fly for environmental reasons — to speak before the United Nations. She was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize and was named Time magazine’s Person of the Year, conjuring the manic jealousy of Donald Trump, who called the honor “so ridiculous” and suggested she go to the movies and chill out.
In Davos, the illuminati prattled on about planting a trillion trees, even as we are still clear-cutting actual trees from the Amazon all the way to Thunberg’s beloved Sweden. This did not amuse nor placate the hoodie-wearing Greta. She seemed irritated and perhaps a little sick; she canceled an appearance the day before because she wasn’t feeling well. She was in no mood for flattery and nonsense. So when Time editor Edward Felsenthal asked her how she dealt with all the haters, Greta didn’t even try to answer diplomatically.
“I would like to say something that I think people need to know more than how I deal with haters,” she answered, before launching into details from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s latest report. She mentioned that if we are to have even a 67 percent chance of limiting global temperature change to under 1.5 C, the point where catastrophic changes begin, we have less than 420 gigatons of CO2 that we can emit before we pass the no-going-back line. Thunberg stated that, at the current rate, we have eight years to change everything.
Thunberg’s face was controlled fury. This was the persona: an adolescent iron-willed truth teller. The Davos one-percenters clapped and rattled their Rolexes. It has become a disconcerting pattern for Thunberg appearances that would be repeated at the European Commission: Greta tells the adults they are fools and their plans are lame and shortsighted. They still give her a standing ovation. A few minutes later, she was gone and the audience dispersed into a fleet of black BMWs and Mercedes, belching diesel into the Alpine sky…
“The phrase ‘A little child shall lead them’ has come to mind more than once,” Al Gore tells me in Davos, before sharing his favorite Greta moment. It was at the U.N. summit last fall. “She said to the assembled world leaders, ‘You say you understand the science, but I don’t believe you. Because if you did and then you continue to act as you do, that would mean you’re evil. And I don’t believe that.’” Gore shook his head in wonderment. “Wow.” He then gives a history lesson: “There have been other times in human history when the moment a morally-based social movement reached the tipping point was the moment when the younger generation made it their own. Here we are.”
Greta read all she could and sometimes went online and battled with climate deniers, oft exclaiming triumphantly, “He blocked me,” to her parents. She eventually wrote an essay on the climate crisis for a Swedish newspaper. Eco-activists contacted her, and Greta mentioned the inspiration she took from the school strikes after the Parkland, Florida, mass shooting, and suggested a climate version. The activists showed little interest. Greta didn’t care and slowly broke out of her cocoon.
“I thought what the Parkland students did was so brave,” says Thunberg. “Of course, it was not the only thing that got me out of that feeling. I did it because I was tired of sitting and waiting. I tried to get others to join me, but no one was interested and no one wanted to do that. So I said, ‘I’m going to do this alone if no one else wants to do it.’ ”
So in August 2018, Greta and her father bicycled down to the Swedish Parliament, across the cobblestone street from where Greta and I now stand. She propped up the first Skolstrejk för klimatet sign, which she’d made from scrap wood. Greta also wrote up an information sheet with climate data and a hint of the defiant humor that eventually led her to make her Twitter profile read, “A teenager working on her anger management problem,” after Trump told her to chill out. Her bio was simple:
“Because you grown-ups don’t give a damn about my future, neither do I. My name is Greta, I am in ninth grade, and I am going on strike from school for the climate.”
Greta’s rise was the activist version of a perfect storm. Her ascension from bullied Swedish student to global climate icon has been driven by both a loss and a regaining of hope. It is not a coincidence that her ascent happened immediately in the aftermath of the election of Trump. It’s impossible to see a Greta-like phenomena emerging during the Obama-driven run up to the Paris climate talks, when it actually looked like nations of the world were getting their shit together to deal with global warming. It became obvious after Trump and the Paris implosion that 30 years of rhetoric and meetings had created very little except more talk.
And then you had the natural disasters. California could not stop burning. Floods ravaged Europe. We now watch glaciers melt and collapse in real time. The dawn of 2020 brought the Australian calamity, with images of scorched earth, koalas and kangaroos burned alive, and the death of a way of life.
The irony of the Greta Age is that we now have options, but refuse to take them. Clean-energy technology has evolved to a point where old arguments that fossil fuels remain the cheapest way to create energy are now obviously nonsense. The cost of clean energy is no longer a barrier to change. Over the past decade, it became an obvious truth: Burning fossil fuels no longer made economic sense anywhere, anytime. What remains is the power and influence of the energy conglomerate superpowers to maintain the status quo. No politician has the courage to face them down. By 2018, it became even clearer that politicians could not be trusted. Talk was wasted. Companies would continue to put profits before nature. We were on our own.
And that’s when Greta came along…
“I have been on the road and visited numerous places and met people from all over the globe,” says Greta. “I can say that it looks nearly the same everywhere I have been: The climate crisis is ignored by people in charge, despite the science being crystal clear. We don’t want to hear one more politician say that this is important but afterward do nothing to change it. We don’t want more empty words from people pretending to take our future seriously.”
She pauses, and her face goes grim. “It shouldn’t be up to us children and teenagers to make people wake up around the world. The ones in charge should be ashamed.”
Below is a gallery of photos from the climate strike on September 20, 2019 in Denver.