Greta Thunberg on climate change: Is a teen’s plea more moving or emotional blackmail?
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Greta Thunberg on climate change: Is a teen’s plea more moving or emotional blackmail?

Thunberg's fight began with a lonely protest outside Swedish Parliament last year, but has since garnered millions of followers across the world.


Illustration by Soham Sen | ThePrint

Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old environmental activist from Sweden, delivered an angry speech at the UN’s Climate Action Summit on 23 September. Since then, she has been under attack, including from US President Donald Trump, for her way of speaking and autism. Thunberg’s fight began with a lonely protest outside Swedish Parliament last year, but has since garnered millions of followers across the world, with students skipping school to join her in the cause.

ThePrint asks: Greta Thunberg on climate change: Is a teen’s plea more moving or emotional blackmail? 

Endearing to see powerful Trump fail to come up with any intellectual response to 16-year-old Greta 

Gurmehar Kaur
Student activist and author

Greta Thunberg is not saying anything extraordinary or exceptionally new that we haven’t heard before. We have heard about climate change in our classrooms, we have all read articles on the Internet that beg us to start caring about the environment.

Most of us have, at some point, engaged with radical activists from the vegan community and their threatening take on these issues. Especially in India, where some of the biggest people’s movements have revolved around nature’s preservation – from the Chipko Movement to the Narmada Bachao Andolan – activism for climate change doesn’t come as a shock. What does surprise us and make us pay attention to is the young girl behind the latest one.

Greta is angry and she is emotional and she does it in a way most of us only wish we had the guts for – her strategy is to call out not only the corporations that have made the biggest contribution to the environmental disaster but the world leaders as well. There is something endearing about seeing a 16-year-old call out the big, bulky, powerful Donald Trump and him failing to come up with any intellectual response. This is what makes her so effective. Is it emotional blackmail? I don’t know and I don’t care if it is. She is making us talk about an extremely important issue in a way we never have before. That is what matters in politics and activism.

Greta can go back to Sweden and make a real difference there instead of wasting time in TV studios

Nayanima Basu
Diplomacy editor, ThePrint

Climate change is a serious issue threatening humankind today, besides various other challenges that the world is facing. Everyone is a stakeholder in the process and the onus does not lie on any one country or region.

Unfortunately, the developed world sucked up all the resources it could from nature and became superpowers of today. So, they have no moral ground left to tell what the developing countries should and shouldn’t do. The world’s developing regions should do whatever they can within their capacity.

I believe Greta Thunberg’s activism is more of an emotional blackmail. There are several Gretas around the world, including in India, who are doing their bit without hogging the limelight or giving “icy cold looks” to world leaders. These are gimmicky gestures at best. She can go back to her country Sweden and make a real difference there by working hard instead of wasting her time in TV studios. If she’s genuine, studios will follow her. I think the world requires props to divert attention of the polity from the larger challenges of poverty, racism and gender discrimination.

Also read: Greta Thunberg is done with making friends

Using words as weapons and emotions as firecrackers, youngsters globally are telling those in power: ‘shame on you’

Kaveree Bamzai
Senior Journalist

“You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words.” All of 16, Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg’s anger is not unusual. A series of young people are turning against the establishment, from Swat Valley to Florida.

Beginning with Pakistan’s Malala Yousafzai, whose gentle anger and remarkable persistence saw her coming back from the dead and demanding the right to education for the world’s most marginalised people, to United States’ Emma Gonzalez, the survivor of the Florida shooting, youngsters are saying to those in power, “shame on you”.

Using words as weapons and emotions as firecrackers, they are lighting a fuse under the seats of those in power. And why not? If they don’t speak for ”those forgotten children who want education, for those frightened children who want peace and for those voiceless children who want change,” as Malala said so famously in her 2014 Nobel Peace Prize speech, who will?

When leaders abandon sense to pursue power, when they become wilfully blind to avoid responsibility, it is up to the next generation to demand accountability. And nothing works better as a motivator than the rage of angels. “We are going to be the last mass shooting in America,” said Gonzalez in 2018, wiping tears flowing from her face. “To every politician who is taking donations from the National Rifle Association, shame on you,” she added. ”How dare you,” echoed Thunberg. It is both a statement and a question. It deserves to be taken note of – and answered.

Greta is not an ‘expert’ on climate change but how many times have we paid attention to actual experts?

Snehesh Alex Philip
Senior associate editor, ThePrint

I really don’t know why the world is so divided over a speech delivered by a teenager, Greta Thunberg, at the United Nations on climate change.

People seem to have very passionate views about her. Some simply love her and are treating her as some kind of a new celebrity; others are attacking her for being able to speak at the UN. Her critics say that only experts should have spoken on the issue.

But amid all this debate over Greta Thunberg, people seemed to have lost the bigger picture that she is talking about – climate change.

Greta or no Greta, climate change is a bitter reality and we as humans have to fight it out if we want our race to live on for centuries. Otherwise, we are heading towards our doomsday.

Rather than fighting over whether Greta’s plea is moving or an emotional blackmail, the world should be focusing on the actual danger that climate change poses. Rather than wasting time mocking a young child, it will be far more fruitful to focus on how each one of us can contribute towards making the environment cleaner.

Greta is a child and not an ‘expert’ on this issue. But how many times have we paid attention to the experts who have been speaking about climate change for long? And even if we did hear, how many of us are actually doing something about it?

Let your conscience answer that.

Also read: #Howdareyou: After Greta Thunberg speech, Twitter explodes with climate change debate

Countries ruled by old people don’t have regard for public movements led by the young

Aastha Singh
Journalist, ThePrint

Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old activist from Sweden, doesn’t believe in theatrics to put forth her compelling arguments about why world leaders are paying little regard to climate change and need to do more. She believes in real change. Her decision to ditch flight travel two years ago is just one example of how strong her convictions are.

The challenge is that many countries across the world are still gerontocracies, which are infected with political inertia and have little regard for public movements. So, a teenager’s plea might be given little to no importance.

Moreover, the difficult question governments do not want to confront is how do you sustain development and growth and still respect the environment?

National discussions set by a country’s government also determine which policy actions get priority. It might be welcoming to hear Prime Minister Narendra Modi announce ambitious targets for India at the UN climate summit, but it’s abhorrent that all we get at home is Hindutva endorsement or political mudslinging. Can you imagine Home Minister Amit Shah and Modi raise the issue of climate change in their political rallies? Mindless posturing yields no real benefits, but actual change does.

Greta Thunberg was right to warn Modi in a video message that he’s “going to fail” if he continues to “brag about little victories”.

But, seeing where the world is headed, it is difficult to say if leaders want to wake up from their slumber.

By Taran Deol, journalist at ThePrint