Greta Thunberg and promoting science not solutions

I have become a little fascinated lately by Greta Thunberg and the sociology of the public reaction to her. (Soooo much to say from a discourse analysis perspective…But I will try to refrain and not be boring.)

In case you have been living in a media vacuum, she is the 16-year-old Swedish climate change activist who recently spoke in the US before the UN. I was reading some articles analyzing why she has been such a galvanizing and polarizing force and they are super interesting. I wonder if people here see any other salient takeaways that us non-famous old people could use in our own circles of influence?

First, she has Asbergers and OCD which seems to make her immune to other people’s manipulative responses to her. She really doesn’t seem bothered by insults, or thrown off her game by demeaning rhetoric or questions. The lesson for the rest of us to to stay focused on facts and not go down defensive rabbit-trails because people who want to deflect the facts make insulting insinuations.

Second, several people have noted that she refuses to endorse specific policies, she just keeps pointing people to what scientists say, and asking lawmakers to do their job and address it. To me, this shows both humility and savvy. When she was asked to testify before the house, she sent the IPCC’s report on limiting warming to 1.5 degrees with a letter saying, "I am submitting this report as my testimony because I don’t want you to listen to me. I want you to listen to the scientists. And I want you to unite behind the science. And then I want you to take action.”

And this is probably belongs on the humor thread, but it cracked me up. It is an ad for the Greta Thunberg Helpline “for adults angry at a child.” (I apologize for the one swear word, but it barely counts as a swear word because it is said with a British accent.)


Some of the attacks on greta thunberg are truly appalling, and attack her for having Aspergers, rather than her ideas

How dare you! Thanks for posting. The video was most entertaining, and I pleased to know I can cuss if using a British accent. It even is better with British cuss words.
Seriously, I think some critics have a point in that she has been manipulated and directed by others, which is disturbing from the standpoint of her own well being, regardless of the validity of the message.
From a practical aspect, perhaps she is bringing more attention to the real issues, but we still have such a polarized society that I wonder how much good it will do. I was reading a post on Facebook today where the retraction of a minor paper on ocean warming for technical issues was hailed as science pulling back on global warming. :pensive:


I’m a disgrace to my profession, because it was actually an Australian accent. I was hoping Reggie hadn’t pointed out that mistake yet. :slight_smile:

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Are you saying they are different? They sound the same to me on BBC programs.:slightly_smiling_face:

Yeah, she is an interesting public figure – I have been hearing about her, but haven’t watched the videos or paid a lot of attention to the specifics of what she’s been saying.

What is fascinating to me is how polarizing someone can be simply because they are a child, and this also echoes the treatment of Parkland shooting survivors such as Emma Gonzalez and David Hogg. I’ve noticed how quickly some are to simply attack the youth of these public figures before or instead of discussing their ideas.

This can be a double standard, because I remember church leaders getting excited when a child memorized and recited Bible verses or even did something bigger like a teen preaching a sermon or giving a testimony. And adults would often point children to role models such as Rebecca St. James who took a stand for sexual abstinence – in those cases youth was seen as a feature, not a disadvantage (the idea being that youth can speak to other youth on a level that adults can’t, and throwing out 1 Timothy 4:12 to anyone who disagreed).

But then when teens become spokespeople on the more liberal side, some of those very same adults lose their minds, and all of a sudden youth is a disadvantage – perhaps because the adults suspect that the youth are simply saying what adults want them to say, or parroting back what they’ve heard. If that’s the case, does that mean that many adults simply expect that, whether conservative or liberal, children and teens are simply saying what they’ve been taught to say? Is that seen as children’s job?

Anyway, hopefully that didn’t count as “discourse analysis.” :wink:

I’m not super optimistic about using Greta’s MO, as pointing to scientists will probably just get the “but that’s human wisdom” response, which you’ve heard before. :wink: At the same time, there is a level of humility in pointing to scientists which I think has been absent in some of the YEC rhetoric I’ve heard, because that tends to rely more on the charisma and talking points of one particular speaker or author. By listening to scientists, you acknowledge that no one ideologically driven group has all the answers, and are also urging people to be skeptical about what they hear, even when it comes from you. I think that’s a valuable takeaway for me anyway, even if I just get the “but that’s human wisdom” response anyway.


It’s amazing to me, as a former high school teacher, how some adults keep insisting teens with platforms they don’t like obviously can’t be the source of their own thinking, motivations, and convictions. Have they spent much time around teenagers? Sure, there are some that aren’t very sharp, but some teens are quite brilliant.

I think in general, youth are sort of relegated to future leadership and seen as the future of the country/church/world. People forget that some of them are quite capable of leading now, and they constitute a part of the country/church/world now. It throws people for a loop when they claim their rightful identity as current citizens or members and make demands on the rest of the group to be seen as such.


Related to science and climate concerns, I heartily recommend the new Netflix series: “Our Planet” narrated by David Attenborough.

The cinematography is simply stunning, and of all of them our family has watched so far, it comes with good messaging too.

One of the interesting observations I learned from the last episode is that all of the unregulated fisheries in the world are suffering over-fishing and diminishing returns for any fishing industry that attempts to continue. But at a regulated area (I think they were referring to a large sanctuary off the coast of Southeast Asia) where protected fish populations have been recovering nicely, the fishing industries off the edges of that protected area are enjoying increased returns with diminished effort. Score for regulated and enforced protection! It just goes to show that unregulated industry can’t even get their own economic self-interests right.

Here is an interesting data point on her travel to NA and the carbon footprint. need to read about halfway down the post for the info. I accept this as true and it reveals how complex solutions are to this issue. I don’t think this takes away from her overall message though.

Oh @Christy, don’t get me started on this one. I cringe inside when (often well meaning) people say things like “Children and young people are the church of tomorrow”. No! They are the church of today!


Thanks, Peter. There is undoubtedly deep complexity beneath every issue and proposal. Here is one key quote from the end of the article you linked that is in reference to naive demands that we get things done faster:

Do I resent the climate strikers? No of course not. I am simply tired of being told I need to drive faster by individuals who don’t yet understand how to drive.

Do you think it might be fair to say that much of the ire expressed by Ms. Thunberg is especially directed toward those who are still denying science and obstructing any efforts at all to reach toward any mitigation at all? If so, it isn’t so much the irritating child in the backseat demanding that you drive faster toward soccer practice when you, the driver, know that you just simply can’t do that. It’s the child stuck at home with a couch potato father who is refusing to take her to practice or anywhere at all. But the author’s points still stand too, that the answers will neither be simple nor fast.

Regarding the symbolism of sailing across the Atlantic, yes - it may have ended up making a larger carbon footprint than if she had availed herself of the commonly accepted options. But it wouldn’t have shown her capacity for leadership by example and would not have captured our attention as such. I.e. this conversation (this paragraph) would not be here if she hadn’t done that. Sometimes leaders gotta do what they gotta do. Go Greta!

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I admit I don’t understand how the letter “L” being bloody is properly vulgar enough to count as cussing. But they do present it with such gusto that one can’t help but be swept along. I’m a great fan of British cussing.

The negative press Greta receives is just the more and more common practice now of shooting the messenger for messages one prefers not to receive. Christy’s point about underestimating the frequent enough brilliance of children/young adults is well taken. Perhaps it goes back to the old prohibition against children being heard instead of just seen, a kind of generational hazing.

Katharine Hayhoe has talked about this. She says that the irony is not lost on her that she has to travel to tell people about the climate. So she tries to maximize her opportunities and goes somewhere only if she has the chance to speak at multiple things in the same area to make it more worth it/prevent multiple trips. I liked that approach. I think we can all serve to try and learn from killing more birds with one store, proverbially.


You and Christy have a good point about 16 year olds being capable of good and great things, but it seems it is only 16 year olds we agree with. If she was wearing a MAGA hat at an AIG rally, she would probably not be seen as a such a brave and great cultural warrior.
All that to say, both sides of the issue tend to be manipulative and sacrifice individuals for the “greater good” of the cause. Her emphasis on the science is laudable, and hopefully will make a difference.


I’m just not very convinced that the aggressive tone and rhetoric employed by many of the youth in this movement is advancing us to a solution. It’s spreading awareness sure. But is it really getting us anywhere?

I haven’t been paying much attention to any of the protests in Belgium or other places. But in my uninformed opinion, the only true solutions are bans on excessive usage of resources. Or something in that ilk which is regulated by the government. If it the case remains with people having to “think about the earth” a little more, then i’m doubtful it’s going to do much.

But there is reason why i keep my nose in philosophy books instead of politics :sweat_smile:


I often see it that way too – but I’d like to hope that, if democracy works the way it should, people who think about the Earth a little more will also start voting for people who think about the Earth a little more – and maybe even make that a major factor in their decision of who to vote for. And hopefully all this will happen in the next few years. :stuck_out_tongue:

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I hope this is the case. However purely from my experience other matters always go first.

Wages and retirement etc etc are more important for the current adult generation. In my country, the flow of immigrants is a big problem to many. So they always vote for the politicians who work towards these things and they shove climate to the side.

The awareness protests haven’t changed votes here at all! It worries me.

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As an older guy, I really appreciate your zeal and enthusiasm. I think you are correct that economic self interest is the primary driving force for the current adult generation, and probably will be for your generation also as the years pass. My cynical tendencies hold the it is nearly always about the money. And if someone says it is not about the money, it is especially about the money (or its surrogate.)
The worst environmental factor in recent years has been relatively low energy prices. Low gas prices encourage driving , flying, big houses with air conditioning, and frees resources for leisure activities, burning yet more fuel. It makes more expensive renewable energy less viable as well.
On the other hand, with high fuel costs, more people would struggle harder to meet basic needs, and the poor might well be hurt the worst. Food would be more expensive, shelter costs more expensive and so forth. So no easy answers.
Ultimately, I do think energy prices will rise, and an economic incentive will develop for energy conservation and renewable energy that is carbon neutral, but until then I share your pessimism for a political solution. And when we reach that point, it may not be pretty or easy. It will require sacrifice and lifestyle changes that may not be pleasant.


Yes and yes, but I am extremely cautious about youth in leadership roles. They may have the intelligence and charisma, but they lack experience and are easily manipulated by adults. The prefrontal cortex, where decision-making occurs, continues to develop until around the age of 25. Teenagers simply lack the foresight of adults.

Where I think youth do provide leadership is when their energy and idealism shames the rest of us into action. The kids aren’t saying anything people don’t know. Pointing to the science is the right strategy for Greta. She’s not holding herself up as an expert, but as an instigator. That is how youth can lead. How many revolutions have been started by students?

There’s something to be said for single-minded focus.


True. So that’s one less excuse for the adults.