Scientists taking measurements on polar ice

Why all the negativity about Greta and her concern for the future of the planet?

We all know who Greta Thunberg is – the young Swedish activist who has inspired millions to combat climate change with her powerful speeches, worldwide school strikes and fearless criticism of what world leaders are doing wrong.

But recently, there’s been a lot of controversy about Greta and she’s been receiving a lot of negative comments from politicians as well as from social media users.

Greta Thunberg (c) UN Photo/Cia Pak

One of the things for which Greta is most well known is starting the school strike movement. She held her first ‘school strike for climate’ in August 2018 and by March 2019 it had turned into a global affair, named ‘Fridays for Future’,  involving more than two million schoolchildren around the world protesting about climate change.

She has certainly influenced a great deal of change, attending meetings and talking to politicians in order to seek to reduce the levels of global warming. Her influence has even been called ‘the Greta effect’ due to her outspoken passion for action on climate change. She has also received numerous honours and awards, such as being named Time’s Person of the Year and nominated for two Nobel peace prizes.

Greta has received a strong support for her campaigning from teenagers, university students and well known politicians; United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have given her credit for driving forward change and many celebrities and politicians have praised her for her efforts.

However, Greta has received a lot of negative comments, many from high-profile politicians; for example, US President Donald Trump has frequently mocked her, tweeting, ‘”Greta must work on her anger management problem, then go to a good old-fashioned movie with a friend” and telling her to “Chill Greta, chill!”.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has described her as “poorly informed” while Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro has called Greta a brat.

However, Greta has shown that she is more than capable of standing up for herself, addressing her critics by stating: “It’s quite hilarious when the only thing people can do is mock you or talk about your appearance or personality, as it means they have no argument or nothing else to say.”

In addition, some critics have questioned her mental health, for example calling her ‘deeply disturbed’, ‘unstable’ and ‘mentally ill’. This is clearly a weak attempt to undermine her efforts to help the environment but, again, she is able to stand up for herself, being completely clear about her mental health struggles and talking about autism on Twitter.

Young climate strikers in the UK (c) EIAimage

In Germany, 18-year-old Naomi Seibt has been called an ‘anti-Greta’. She is a climate sceptic, arguing against Greta’s climate change concerns by claiming she has no scientific knowledge and so doesn’t understand what she’s talking about. Naomi reportedly spent weeks researching climate change before coming to the conclusion that carbon dioxide “does not have a terrible impact on the environment”. However, this argument against Greta itself has no scientific background as it is clear that carbon dioxide greatly impacts the climate.

All Greta is trying to do is raise awareness of climate change and to encourage people to make some changes to their lifestyles. She is trying to get the voice of younger generations heard so that politicians can act upon it.

Her comments about the coronavirus pandemic have been branded insensitive and she has experienced a lot of negativity because of this. However, in reality has she really done anything wrong? She has shown that she has thought about coronavirus and those affected by it via her announcement that strikes held for climate change should be held online to reduce the number of large gatherings.

Do politicians really believe that it is so wrong for people to try to help the environment? What is their real problem with Greta?  Is it simply that they are trying to defend themselves from the criticism that their inaction has brought upon themselves?

And it is this criticism that could easily be changed by doing one thing – helping the planet.