Greta Thunberg / ²ɡrʲeːta ²tʰʉːnbærj / a Listen, born January 3, 2003 in Stockholm (Sweden), is a Swedish environmental activist committed to the fight against global warming.
She gained international fame for her activist actions and several interventions and speeches, including a speech at the headquarters of the United Nations, by confronting political decision-makers with the existential crisis resulting from climate change that humanity must face.
She protested in the summer of 2018 in front of the Swedish Parliament, at the age of 15, against inaction on climate change. In November 2018, she launched the school strike for the climate (Skolstrejk för klimatet). The movement is spreading around the world after his speech at the 2018 Katowice Climate Change Conference (COP24) in December of the same year. In 2019, there were several coordinated multi-city protests involving over a million students each. To avoid flying by plane, Greta Thunberg sails the sea to North America where she attends the 2019 United Nations Climate Action Summit. In her speech, she delivers the “How dare you?” “(” How dare you? “) In question to politicians, an expression widely used by the press and, often diverted, in popular culture.
She receives several awards and distinctions for her activism. She was on the cover of Time magazine in May 2019, which awarded her the title of Personality of the Year 2019. Her influence on the world stage is described as the “Greta Thunberg Effect” by The Guardian and other media. She is on the Forbes list of the 100 Most Influential Women in the World (2019) and has two consecutive nominations for the Right Livelihood Award (2019 and 2020).
Her radical speech and her rise to world fame made her a symbol for many environmentalists, but also the target of many criticisms and reactions, sometimes violent.
She is the daughter of Swedish actor and director Svante Thunberg (sv) and lyric singer Malena Ernman3. His paternal grandfather, Olof Thunberg, was also a well-known actor4. She is a relative of the 1903 Nobel Prize for Chemistry, Svante Arrhenius, one of the first to emit a theory of global warming at the beginning of the twentieth century. [Ref. necessary]
Malena Ernman has published a book devoted to Autism and Attention Deficit Disorder Due to Asperger Syndrome diagnosed in each of her children, Greta and Beata5.
Born January 3, 2003 in Stockholm6, Greta Thunberg declares that she began to be interested in climate change at the age of nine.
At eleven years of age, following an eight-month depressive episode, 4 Asperger’s syndrome (a form of autism), obsessive-compulsive disorder, attention deficit disorder with or without hyperactivity, and selective mutism are diagnosed in her and her sister Beata5,7.
She won – in May 2018 – a writing competition on the climate, after which she met Bo Thorén8, “early environmental activist”, whose association, Fossil Free Dalsland, created in 2013, seeks to end to fossil industries in Dalie9.
His biography Scènes de cœur (Scener ur hjärtat) was published on August 24, 2018, a few days after the start of his strike. It is written by her parents, her sister but also by herself10: following a depression, she talks with her parents about her fears about the environment and global warming9.
She becomes vegan, influencing her family: her father also becomes vegan, and her mother partially approaches it11,12. Thunberg refuses unnecessary purchases and then refuses to fly from the age of 15; his family followed suit13. This is how she would have realized her ability to convince others14.
In the new family book Our House Is on Fire: Scenes of a Family and a Planet in Crisis, her mother reflects on Thunberg’s depression and explains that her daughter simply cannot reconcile the contradictions of modern life: living in a so-called abundant society, based on consumption, having access to multiple resources, but being unable to help people who are vulnerable or who are fleeing poverty, war, terror or who have lost everything. She cannot understand that a film about waste polluting the oceans upset her classmates like her during the screening but that a few minutes later they can talk about trips and what they will soon be buying.
Friday student strike for the climate
In May 2018, Greta Thunberg was one of the winners of the competition organized by the Svenska Dagbladet, which invited young Swedes to write an article on the climate for young people16. She describes her fear of global warming.
In a letter, she explains that this competition allowed her to be contacted by “a group of people, especially young people, who wanted to do something about the climate crisis”. According to Greta Thunberg, Bo Thorén, who participates with her and other young activists in telephone meetings, has several ideas, including “a vague idea of a school strike (that the schoolchildren do something in schoolyards or in classrooms), inspired by Parkland students who refused to go to school after the shooting. She likes the idea and tries to get other kids to join her, but they think a walk will have more results. She then plans the school strike on her own and no longer participates in meetings with the group.
On August 20, 2018, the day of her return to ninth year (equivalent to the third grade in the French system) in a school in Stockholm, Greta Thunberg began a strike in front of the Riksdag (Swedish Parliament), and explained to the invited journalists that she will not go to school until the general elections of September 9, 2018.17 Sweden had just experienced a heat wave with unprecedented forest fires. It demands that the Swedish government reduce anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions, as provided for in the Paris agreement. She sits in front of the Swedish Parliament every day during school hours. She calls, on her sign, for a “school strike for the climate” 3. Its story is picked up by international newspapers.
After the election, she continues to demonstrate every Friday. On Twitter, she uses the hashtags #Klimatstrejka, #ClimateStrike and #FridaysforFuture. She takes part in the Rise for Climate demonstration in front of the European Parliament in Brussels. In London, she participated in the “declaration of rebellion” (civil disobedience) organized by Extinction Rebellion18.
The principle of a school strike on Fridays – Fridays for Future – is gaining the attention of the media around the world19,20. It finds variations in other countries: the Netherlands, Germany, Finland, Denmark, Luxembourg21,22, France, Spain23 and Australia24. In Belgium, she inspired Anuna De Wever and Kyra Gantois, who launched a youth strike based on her action25.
In Australia, where environmentalists are grappling with the large national fossil fuel industry, thousands of students inspired by Greta Thunberg go on school strike on Fridays, despite the remark of their Prime Minister Scott Morrison who declares in parliament: “ what we want is learning in schools and less activism26. ”
In total, in November and December 2018, more than twenty thousand students had organized strikes in at least 270 cities in countries such as Germany, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, the United States. United States, Finland, Japan, Netherlands, United Kingdom and Switzerland27,28,29.
Following the global strike of March 15, 2019, she spoke on Facebook to say30:
“We need a new way of thinking. The political system that you adults have created is competition. You cheat whenever you can because all that matters is winning. We must cooperate and share what remains of the planet’s resources in a fair way. ”
It is one of the main vectors of the school strike movement in Europe and around the world to protest against states’ inaction on global warming31. On September 27, 2019, during a new Friday for Future turned into a “global strike for the climate”, a demonstration brought together half a million people in Montreal. The parade – described as “historic” by the police, and in which Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participated – is “unprecedented in Quebec and one of the biggest demonstrations ever organized in Canada32. »At the end of the march, the keys to the city are symbolically given to Greta Thunberg by the mayoress, Valérie Plante.
Speech at COP24
On December 4, 2018, Greta Thunberg addresses COP24, the United Nations summit on climate change27,35. She explains the seriousness of the problem as follows:
“What we hope to achieve through this conference is to understand that we are facing an existential threat. This is the most serious crisis humanity
has ever suffered. We have to realize that first and do something as quickly as possible to stop the emissions and try to save what we can. ”
On the last official day, December 14, she declared at the COP24 platform:
Defense of neurodiversity
On several occasions37, including on April 2, 2019, on the occasion of World Autism Awareness Day, Greta Thunberg describes her form of autism as a “superpower”: “without my diagnosis, I cannot would never have started the school strike for the climate. Because I would have been like everyone else. Our societies need to change, we need people who can think outside the box, and we need to start taking care of each other. And accept our differences ”38. His post has been liked almost 200,000 times on Instagram39. The Science-Press Agency underlines on this occasion that the specific interest of Greta Thunberg, a common characteristic among people with autism spectrum disorders, is the climate; the article concludes that “the idea that people like Greta Thunberg can have insightful looks, not in spite of autism but because of it, is gaining ground, in the context of a global movement to honor neurodiversity. “40.41. New Yorker reporter Masha Gessen writes: “Greta’s protest has a dual purpose. This not only draws attention to climate policy, as she wished, but also shows the political potential of the neurological difference ”
Address to the British Parliament
On April 23, 2019, Greta Thunberg gave a speech in front of the British Parliament in the House of Commons of the United Kingdom42, explaining the spirit of her school strike for the climate, reproaching parliamentarians for their lies and false hopes given, their incomprehension of the climate crisis or their unwillingness to understand, denouncing British support for an expansion of its coal, oil and gas industries (including shale gas) and its airports, a policy it describes as absurd and irresponsible, and calling for each decision to be taken considering its effect on the curve of greenhouse gas emissions, and not to wait for a complete solution to start taking action42.
Speech at the French National Assembly
The unregistered deputy Matthieu Orphelin, supported by 161 colleagues, invites Greta Thunberg to speak, on July 23, 2019, in a room of the Palais Bourbon, in the company of three French climate activists (Ivy-Fleur Boileau, Virgile Mouquet, Alicia Arquetoux) and climatologist Valérie Masson-Delmotte – co-chair of Group 1 of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 44,45.
The announcement of this intervention arouses the hostility of certain deputies labeled on the right, including LR deputies Guillaume Larrivé, Julien Aubert, Valérie Boyer, Jean-Louis Thiériot and Constance Le Grip, LREM deputy Bénédicte Peyrol and RN deputy Sébastien Chenu46 . Guillaume Larrivé calls on the deputies to boycott this meeting47. On the other hand, it receives the support of other political figures such as Delphine Batho, Nicolas Hulot and Olivier Faure48.
In this speech49, Greta Thunberg calls on her listeners, and in particular the political world, to take the full measure of the climate crisis, to listen to and respect what the scientific community indicates50, not to fabricate facts, and to make statements. to acts51,45. It warns against the greatest danger, that of pretending to act, in particular through accounting tricks (“clever accounting”) 51.
She quotes page 10852 of chapter 2 of the IPCC special report on the consequences of a global warming of 1.5 ° C which indicates that the carbon budget remaining at the global level to have a 67% chance of not exceeding an increase of temperature of 1.5 ° C is, at the start of 2018, 420 gigatonnes (Gt) of CO2. She is updating it to 360 Gt as she speaks (July 2019) since the current rate of emissions is 42 Gt per year and she explains that, in the absence of any change, this budget will be entirely consumed in eight and a half years51 . It also mentions: the risk of crossing tipping points in the climate system before 2030; the conclusions of the IPCC after the Paris agreement which encourage the adoption of more ambitious objectives to save more human lives; and international equity – the richest countries having to act more quickly to compensate for the necessary construction of infrastructure in the less economically advanced countries51.
Ironically, the intervention takes place hours before the National Assembly’s review of the EU-Canada free trade treaty. An agreement fought by both environmentalists and farmers, but supported by Emmanuel Macron.
Refusal to travel by plane
Greta Thunberg refuses to travel by plane because of the carbon emissions induced by this mode of transport. In a plea for air travel, economist Tyler Cowen suggests that, rather than going to New York by sailboat in uncomfortable conditions, Greta Thunberg could have asked to travel on a vacant seat or fly slower, or make up for it. its greenhouse gas emissions53. The crew of the sailboat replied that the carbon emissions of the trip were expected to be offset54.
According to Die Tageszeitung, Greta Thunberg’s choice to travel by sailboat results in the displacement of six people by plane instead of two, as the members of the sailboat crew have planned to fly to New York to bring the sailboat back.
For some observers, it is possible that the activism of Greta Thunberg amplified the phenomenon of “flygskam” (the shame of flying) in Sweden, contributing to a sharp drop in the turnover of the airline sector in this country56.
Other activists, such as Anuna De Wever, Adelaide Charlier and Jeppe Bijker, are leaving in October 2019 to travel to the Santiago Climate Change Conference by sailboat. They say that it is not a question of no longer taking the plane but of thinking about the alternatives before doing so57.
Due to the last minute relocation of COP25 to Madrid, Greta Thunberg is appealing on Twitter asking for help getting to Madrid. She left Virginia on November 13 on a sailboat, the Vagabonde, with an Australian family, her father and professional skipper, Nikki Henderson, after using her time in the United States and Canada to participate in student strikes every Friday, from Iowa City to Los Angeles58.
UN World Climate Summit in September 2019
Greta Thunberg is taking a sabbatical from the summer of 2019 to attend international meetings and conferences in several countries that invite her, taking her to several continents59.
Invited by UN Secretary General António Guterres for the September 23 summit in New York, she embarked on August 14 on the Malizia II60 racing sailboat, equipped with solar panels and hydrogenerators61, which hoisted for the occasion a veil crossed out with the slogan Fridays for future59.
Arriving on August 28, she declares that her message for Donald Trump is to listen to science but seems to doubt that she can convince him where others have failed. Regarding the fires in the Amazon, she considers them “disastrous” and sees them as “a clear sign that we must stop destroying nature” 62.
On September 23, she spoke at the UN platform, directly accusing the leaders of the planet of having “stolen her dreams and her childhood with empty words”, and of speaking only of a “tale of fairies of eternal economic growth ”63,64. This speech, analyzed in Le Monde as being “full of rage” 65, is considered to be one of the most powerful since the beginning of his activism66,67.
The same day, following this speech, with 15 other minors, she filed a legal action with the Committee on the Rights of the Child against five polluting countries that had ratified the UN convention on the rights of the child. : France, Germany, Argentina, Brazil and Turkey68.
2021 UN Security Council elections
In June 2020 Greta Thunberg seeks to influence the composition of the United Nations Security Council in favor of the most climate-conscious countries. At that point, Canada and Norway want to sit on it. But these countries’ support for increased oil and gas production is incompatible with international climate goals. Along with three other young activists, Litokne Kabua and Ranton Anjain from the Marshall Islands and Pauline Tomren from Norway, and 22 climate scientists, she signs a call for small island states to use their vote and influence to favor Ireland, which is deemed more virtuous. Island states have 20% of the votes, while candidate countries must win two-thirds of the votes69. Norway and Ireland are then elected for the two seats in Western Europe70
On December 30, 2019, she designed and hosted the BBC’s Today program. There, she interviews the naturalist Sir David Attenborough71.
During confinement due to the coronavirus crisis, she produced a radio program entitled “Humanity has not yet failed” which recounts her travels and meetings in 2019 and 2020 and which questions the notion of crisis and the responses to it. .
Other activist activities
On April 21, following the week of demonstrations and non-violent blockades operated in London83 by Extinction Rebellion, she spoke to them at Marble Arch: “We are facing an existential crisis, the climate crisis. and the ecological crisis have been ignored for decades84. ”
On April 23, she spoke in front of the British Parliament and described the reduction of the United Kingdom’s emissions as the result of creative accounting: in fact, the country boasts of 37% of reduction since 1990 but this figure rises to 10% if we follow international rules which require to take into account aviation, navy and transport related to exports and imports85. On April 27 Rebecca Long Bailey, Labor Minister of Energy in the shadow cabinet, calls for a vote in Parliament on May 1 to declare the climate emergency86 following the statement by Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the Labor Party. Scottish National Party leader Nicola Sturgeon does the same and says her government will step up efforts to cut Scotland’s emissions.
She speaks at the World Climate Summit in Austria at the invitation of Arnold Schwartzenegger: she reminds presidents, celebrities, politicians, business leaders and journalists of their collective responsibility and asks them to ” inform the public and send an urgent message.
In Davos in January 2020, she said awareness of the climate crisis had increased but that in other respects little had changed and global CO2 emissions had not decreased. You must “immediately end all fossil fuel subsidies and withdraw from them immediately and completely. We don’t want it to be done by 2050, 2030 or even 2021 – we want it to be done now. “89
On March 4, 2020, she attended an extraordinary meeting of the European Parliament’s Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety to discuss European climate law. She declares that she considers the draft law on the climate published by the European Commission as a surrender90. This law is based to ensure carbon neutrality in 2050 on negative emissions such as bioenergy with carbon dioxide capture and storage which are not yet available on a large scale although they are taken into account in the IPCC reports. . For emissions, “we need a real zero,” she said91.
NGOs and organizations involved in carbon offsetting have observed a fourfold increase in investments in this area over the past 18 months, both from individuals and large companies. The director of Climate Stewards attributes this development to the Greta Thunberg effect, the impact of Extinction Rebellion, David Attenborough, and the climate school strike92.
In the fall of 2020, she called on Americans to vote for Democrat Joe Biden to avoid a new term for climate skeptic Donald Trump. “From a climate point of view this is nowhere near enough and many of you of course defended other candidates. But hey … you know … damn it! Just organize yourself and get everyone to vote #Biden »
“The Greta Thunberg effect”
Greta Thunberg’s ability to put the issue of global warming at the center of the debate is called by some media the “Greta Thunberg effect”
Media and political reaction
According to an analysis by France Inter, the perception of Greta Thunberg varies depending on the country: in France, she was little criticized until her visit to the National Assembly in July 2019. L’Obs subtitles elsewhere “Whether seen as a providential icon or the actress of a sinister masquerade, Greta Thunberg arouses emotional outbursts. ”
According to the IFOP survey of January 2020, 54% of French people say they have a “good image” of Greta Thunberg and 46% have a bad image, of which one in five French people have a “very bad image” 98. 78% of supporters of the left have a good image, against 47% of the right, and 39% of supporters of the National Rally.
According to Liberation, the main criticisms of his detractors relate to his youth and the harshness of his words99; even if the teenager is only repeating two obvious facts (climate change and inaction of governments), these criticisms are often vehement, to the extent of her global notoriety.
Critics consider his speeches superficial, because they essentially resume professional studies without providing concrete solutions or new aspects100,101. Others believe that she should “leave room for adversarial debate” so as not to isolate herself.102 Others prefer to attack her person more than her speech. Most attacks of this type are carried out by older men103.
The person and the speeches of Greta Thunberg also provoke controversy in intellectual104 and political circles, triggering, according to Marine Benoit, of Sciences et Avenir, “a surge of hatred on the part of deputies, journalists and other more or less influential personalities, like the philosopher Michel Onfray or the founder of the Doctissimo Laurent Alexandre site ”105. The latter claims that his ideas would worsen global warming and lead to a “green dictatorship” 106. He also denounces his school strike and his “depressive and catastrophic apocalyptic thinking for young people” 107, and qualifies his media coverage as “the marketing success of the decade” .
Deputy Guillaume Larrivé qualifies her as an “apocalyptic guru” and calls for a boycott of the meeting; Julien Aubert speaks of a “Nobel Prize for fear” and of a “prophetess in short pants” while Jean-Louis Thiériot says “no to obscurantist infantilization” 109. The deputy Emmanuelle Ménard writes about her on Twitter: “Too bad that spanking is prohibited, she deserves a good one”, which leads to the suspension of her account110.
Pascal Bruckner, novelist and essayist, speaks of a “dangerous propaganda of climatic infantilism” 111.
According to the philosopher Luc Ferry, the radical ecologism of Greta Thunberg is in fact a defense of the doctrine of “collapse”, that is to say the anti-liberal ideal of leftism and Third Worldism. He sees in it the ideological continuation of “defunct communism” 112.
In the world
It is supported by the British royal family and considered “must-see” in the United Kingdom; cited by Angela Merkel and widely followed by students from Germany, as well as by Belgian students; mocked by Matteo Salvini and several Italian newspapers in parallel with his invitation by the Pope to Italy; finally, in his native country, the Swedes are torn “between pride and annoyance” 113.
In August 2019, the number of new children’s books about the climate crisis and nature more than doubled in the last twelve months in the UK according to Nielsen Book Research. Sales have also doubled. Children’s booksellers attribute the phenomenon to a “Greta Thunberg effect”. A new collection of books on environmental heroes is due out in October 2019, shortly before the Nobel Peace Prize is awarded.
According to a study by the French Institute of Public Opinion (IFOP) for the Jean-Jaurès Foundation, published in January 2020, it is known to 74% of Britons (57% of whom know precisely who it is), 95 % of Germans (86% of whom know it precisely), 93% of Italians (and 77%), but less known in the United States (49% have heard of it and 36% barely know precisely who it is) 98. The countries where it is most divisive are Germany and France (29% of French people say that it “annoys them”, as do 35% of Germans), while it is relatively consensual in the United States, in the United Kingdom and Italy (with around 70% good opinions), where it is less well known98. Only a minority of respondents say they are indifferent to it (at least 13% in Germany, at most 21% in the United Kingdom) 98.
On March 13, 2019, the Nobel Prize for Literature JMG Le Clézio takes a stand in favor of Greta Thunberg and her fight in a column published in Liberation: “She says that we – the adults, the leaders, the actors of our selfish world and rapacious – we have done nothing, and that the children of the future will hold us accountable […] She speaks for herself, for her generation, but also for her unborn children, and beyond humans, for our Earth whole, in its precious and fragile beauty. Let’s listen to her. Let’s hear it. There may still be time115. The second part of this quote was taken from the back cover of Greta Thunberg’s little book Join Us.
For the co-chair of the number one group of the IPCC, Valérie Masson-Delmotte, “we are talking about the messenger but not the problem and what interests me is to talk about climate change which affects everyone, ecosystems and people, and talk about solutions and ensure that these solutions are deployed ”.
“It’s the miracle I expected” says director Yann Arthus-Bertrand97. Others in France, from all walks of life, provide it with support, such as MP Delphine Batho, journalist Hugo Clément and designer Pénélope Bagieu.
In May 2019, the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, wrote to Greta Thunberg: “It is very encouraging to see how you have inspired other young people to join you in speaking out. You wake people up in the face of scientific consensus and the urgency to act ”118,119. On the following July 22, columnist Pascal Riché wrote that Greta Thunberg is a “necessary icon,” and “deserves neither excess honor nor indignity. She is only a representative of the next generation, who is right to alert us “.
Perry Bellegarde, National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, greets her as a “young warrior lady”, during the demonstration organized in Montreal, on September 27, 2019, as part of the Fridays for Future.
In January 2020, the philosopher Bernard Stiegler published volume 2 of his essay What is called a wound? whose subtitle is: the lesson of Greta Thunberg in which he evokes the necessity and the extent of the fight of Greta Thumberg
Greta Thunberg suffers in reaction to her speech from very strong criticisms, but also personal attacks on her age, her gender or her autism, and harassment, some of her detractors calling for her death.
Bernard Chenebault, president of the association Les Amis du Palais de Tokyo, was dismissed from his post on September 29, 2019 after publicly calling for the murder of Greta Thunberg.
For Danish author and political science teacher Bjørn Lomborg, “Decades of climate change exaggeration in the West have produced scared children, feverish headlines and unrealistic political promises. The world needs a cooler approach that intelligently addresses climate change without unnecessarily scaring us (…) ”.
Australian conservative polemicist Andrew Bolt publishes two columns against her in the Herald Sun, calling her “deeply disturbed” and “a girl so young and with so much mental disorder treated as a guru by so many adults” 125. Greta Thunberg responds to him on Twitter, expressing her astonishment at the publication of her “conspiratorial hate campaign” .
At the end of 2018 and the beginning of 2019, on the Internet, climate-skeptic and conspiratorial Internet users criticized it like trolls128. Her mother Malena Ernman responds on Facebook, part of the criticism relating to her, regularly suspected of instrumentalizing her daughter. Malena Ernman claims that her daughter’s decision to go on strike is hers and that her parents were against it, although she published a book a few days before her daughter’s strike started and her parents are funding her travel128, which are done by electric car128, train129 and bus.
On October 7, 2019, a mannequin with his effigy, accompanied by a sign “Greta is your god” (“Greta is your god”), is found hanged under a bridge in Rome. This action is condemned by the mayor of Rome and other Italian politicians131; the Rome public prosecutor’s office opens an investigation for “aggravated threats” .
During his trip to Canada [Which one?], The appearance of an oil company sticker interpreted as a child pornography caricature provoked a wave of indignation133. Leela Aheera, Minister of Culture, Multiculturalism and the Status of Women, described this image as “completely deplorable, unacceptable and degrading”. The Royal Mounted Police’s investigative department considers “that the illustration does not meet the criteria associated with child pornography nor that it portrays a non-consensual act that could be interpreted as a threat to the person. ”
Analysis of attacks
The attacks against Greta Thunberg were particularly sharp, more in form than in substance. This was notably shown by a study by researcher Albin Wagener, from the University of Rennes-II. In an analysis of the speeches against the Swedish activist, he showed which arguments were used the most against her, without ever questioning the substance of his speech.
For the journal Scientific American, Greta Thunberg is mainly the victim of personal attacks on her autism and her age from climate skeptics, close to the Environmental Protection Agency of the Trump administration who have restricted the role of science in the ‘agency and are against a policy of combating global warming, as well as conservative media. Through this practice, everyone wants to reduce the impact of his speech with the consequence, according to the authors, of dissuading people with mental or physical disabilities from speaking publicly137.
On April 9, members of the Collective for the Freedom of Expression of Autistic People stressed that Laurent Alexandre’s remarks against Greta Thunberg were “discriminatory and insulting”, and that the latter was based on a dated and erroneous definition of the syndrome of ‘Asperger138. Quebec journalist Marc Cassivi qualifies Onfray’s text as “lousy”, also estimating that the worst reaction against Greta Thunberg was that of Canadian political candidate Ken Pereira, who wanted his sailboat to be wrecked during his trip in August 2019139. Hugo Horiot, author, actor and activist for the dignity of autistic people, considers that rather than addressing the substance of the debate, the attacks target the young activist in “what she intrinsically is.” […] On the pretext that she is on the autism spectrum, that would mean that she would be incapable of thinking for herself140. ”
Journalist Scott Waldman of Thomas Jefferson University defends Greta Thunberg in an article published in the trade journal E&E News 141 and in Scientific American137. He observes that many attacks, emanating in particular from people who influenced the environmental policy of the administration of Donald Trump, relate to the autism of Greta Thunberg. On this point, he reports the words of autism experts, who worry “that the use of ad hominemf attacks leads to significant collateral damage by dissuading people with intellectual disabilities and developmental disabilities. express in public [sic] g ”. On July 30, 2019, TV5 Monde journalist Linda Giguère calls for an end to the “lynching of Greta Thunberg on social networks”, noting that many insults relate to her appearance and her medical diagnoses rather than to the substance of her speech ; she adds that Greta is disturbing because she is “strange”, that she talks, and “becomes a model despite her autism” 142. In showing his support for Greta Thunberg, American writer Steve Silberman noted that disgust against lies and injustice is common among people with autism. He adds that the strategy of attacking him on the basis of his autism aims to discredit Greta Thunberg’s message, perceived as irrelevant because it emanates from a different person141.
Several journalists have underlined the fallacious aspect of the argument of Greta Thunberg’s inability to think independently and assume her climate activism due to her autism.
Alice Afanasenkoh, member of the Francophone Association of Autistic Women (AFFA), believes that “The height of misogynistic and handiphobic hatred was reached on Tuesday July 23 by Michel Onfray […] 145”. Andrew Bolt’s words sparked numerous condemnations from autistic advocates and the Anglo-Saxon press126,127, with The Independent journalist James Moore calling them “pathetic harassment” 146. Claude Askolovitch considers that Pascal Bruckner “knows nothing about Greta Thunberg” and that he insults her on the basis of his handicap and his appearance “in the most vile terms”.
For Hervé Gardette, journalist on France Culture, and Philippe Watrelot, professor of economics and pedagogue, the hatred shown by elderly men like Laurent Alexandre, Michel Onfray and Pascal Bruckner with regard to Greta Thunberg is “youthophobia”. In the second place, this elderly generation refuses the reproach of past choices and newly introduced ideas, which they see as a regression of “their” time. Because beyond the arguments emanating from climate-skeptics, the question arises, in multiple critiques, of the “inversion of hierarchies”, where a child dictates the behavior of adults97. Writer Didier Daeninckx is delighted with the mobilization of young people and notes that in the past people like Guy Môquet also got involved young.
In his blog on Télérama, Samuel Gontier ironically reviews the reactions of television editorial writers following his speech to the UN in September 2019. With a few exceptions, they say they are on the verge of unease and do not comment on the substance. but always the form of the speech and the person of Greta Thunberg151. LCI emphasizes that “when we listen to the speeches of the young ecologist, we observe that she only recommends one thing: listen to specialists and immerse themselves in their work. ”
For Titiou Lecoq, on Slate, Greta Thunberg, a modern witch, would simply have been burned in other times. What she is criticized for is being a woman and not trying to seduce, being young and not listening to grown-ups, being autistic and knowing how to express herself152. “Greta Thunberg does not embody, physically, what is traditionally expected of a young woman who chooses to enter the media field” underlines Arnaud Gonzague in the pages of L’Obs about the rejection she entails at some he calls “thunbergophobes” 97. In addition, the association of women and adolescents arouses a number of often virulent criticisms: “mediatized child”, “Pythia with quilt”, or even according to Raphaël Enthoven “an empty envelope mandated to speak well” .
For the Australian researcher Camilla Nelson, on The Conversation, Greta Thunberg attacks industrial capitalism and thereby the certainties and self-esteem of certain men, who have recourse to the usual strategies of misogyny to avoid the substance of the debate: ” accusations of emotionality, hysteria, mental disorder and an inability to think for herself – stereotypical labels that are traditionally used to silence women’s public discourse and undermine their authority ”.
According to Jean-Pascal van Ypersele de Strihou, climatologist and former vice-president of the IPCC, the hatred of his detractors is often explained by the fear of changing a system that benefits them. For him “Greta is gifted, and she understands the issues of the climate crisis much better than most political or economic leaders” and she “disturbs”, the attempts to discredit her often coming from “old gentlemen” who “lower themselves. to criticize his appearance or his alleged “mental illness” ”.
According to a study by Jonas Anshelm and Martin Hultman researchers at Chalmers Polytechnic, the attacks of climate skeptics like Bjørn Lomborg or Steve Milloy on Greta Thunberg are a reflection of a group of men who do not think that the environment is threatened by climate change, the only threat in their eyes being that against “a certain form of modern industrial society, constructed and dominated by their form of masculinity”. They feel threatened on several fronts, first gender equality and the #MeToo Movement, then by the changes requested to prevent global warming which threatens their way of life. These reactionary men are guided by right-wing nationalism, anti-feminism and the denial of global warming, these three reactions being mutually supportive.
Greta Thunberg’s reactions
Greta Thunberg shows humor in the face of attacks. In an interview with Time in May 2019, she addresses criticisms received on the internet, saying, “It’s pretty funny when the only thing people can do is laugh at you, or talk about how you look. or your personality, which means they have no arguments, and nothing else to say155. “. After the reactions of Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin, who insist on her age by describing her, for example, as “a nice ill-informed girl”, she uses this phrase in her own description on her Twitter account156. Likewise, interviewed in October 2019 for L’Émission pour la Terre, on France 2, Greta Thunberg declares: “If I tell you that there is fire here, normally it is the fire that you should watch and not me. . And yet, right now, what people are looking at is me! […] [The criticisms addressed to me], in a way that’s a pretty good sign: if they focus on campaigns of hate and lies about me, it means that they don’t have no argument and they are reduced to attacking a 16-year-old girl ”.
In a speech given in March 2019 in the Church of Saint Savior in Duisburg, Katrin Göring-Eckardt, former environmental vice-president of the Bundestag, draws a parallel between the criticisms against Greta Thunberg and those directed against the biblical prophet Amos: “Greta reminds me of the passage from Amos, the book of the prophet, in which it is written:” They hate the one who calls them at the door, and they hate the one who speaks sincerely. “”.
Accusation of instrumentalization
In a Reporterre article published on February 9, 2019, Isabelle Attard, former EÉLV MP, suggests that Ingmar Rentzhog, a Swedish public relations specialist, would build his image. Isabelle Attard accuses Greta Thunberg of being financed by her company and that she would be exploited. For Attard, they would be “specialists in greenwashing, green growth and capitalism” 10. Parents, when asked about it, said they were not aware of it160,161. Greta Thunberg denies knowing Rentzhog: “He spoke to me and took pictures, which he posted on Facebook. It was the first time that I met him and that I spoke to him ”162.
Greta Thunberg is regularly accused in Sweden of being a “marketing object” and of “monetizing her interventions” but always without any proof. She says, “I am not part of any organization, I only travel with permission from my school, my parents pay for tickets and accommodation.” According to Europe 1 “until now, nothing allows to contradict it” 163. She explains in particular that her action is purely individual and that she would like not to need to act since scientific information is available to everyone and that adults and governments can also get involved8.
Awards and Recognition
In 2018, Greta Thunberg was one of three nominated for the WWF Sweden Environmental Hero Award164.
In November 2018, she was nominated by the power company Telge Energi for the Children for the Climate award, but declined the nomination when she learned that the other finalists were to be sent from all over the world to Stockholm, and said: “They do not ‘have no contact with reality ”.
In November 2018, she was awarded the Fryshuset Young Model of the Year Scholarship166. In December, Time Magazine named her as one of the twenty-five most influential teens in the world.
In March 2019, she was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by two opposition MPs Left Party of the Swedish Parliament (Jens Holm (sv) and Håkan Svenneling (sv)) and three opposition MPs Socialist Party of left of the Storting, the Norwegian parliament, Freddy André Øvstegård (no), Mona Fagerås (no) and Lars Haltbrekken (no) . The Swedish tabloid Expressen chooses her to represent the woman of the year 2019 in Sweden171. A survey conducted for the Aftonbladet newspaper among 1,000 people in March 2019 also named her as the woman of the year.
In April 2019, she received the Freedom Prize, which is a prize from the Normandy region open to young people between the ages of fifteen and twenty-five who are invited to vote online. She declares that she gives the twenty-five thousand euros of the prize to four organizations committed to climate justice, Care, the Climate Change Adaptation Fund, 350.org and Greenpeace International.
On June 7, 2019, Amnesty International awarded her and the Fridays for Future movement it inspired, its prestigious Ambassador of Conscience Prize176. Kumi Naidoo, Secretary General of Amnesty, writes: “The determination of young activists around the world to face the realities of the climate crisis makes us humble and inspires us. Each young participant embodies what it means to act according to his conscience. They remind us that we have more power than we realize and that we all have a role to play in protecting human rights against climate disasters. ”
On July 12, 2019, the young activist receives the Geddes Environment Medal, one of the most important awards of the Royal Scottish Geographical Society, awarded “for exceptional contribution to the conservation and protection of the natural environment and to sustainable development “.
She received the Keys to the City of Montreal in September 2019 from Mayor Valérie Plante.
On July 21, 2019, Greta Thunberg received the 2019 Freedom Prize in Normandy after a vote of 4,015 young people aged 15 to 25.
On September 25, 2019, she received the Right Livelihood Award, known as the “Alternative Nobel Prize”. Greta Thunberg is honored “for having inspired and supported political demands for urgent climate action in accordance with scientific data”; the foundation states: “Her science-based understanding of the climate crisis and the meager responses to the topic by society and politicians have led Greta Thunberg to dedicate herself to the cause and to demand action against climate change. She personifies the idea that everyone has the power to change the course of things ”
The University of Mons announces in May that Greta Thunberg will receive the badge and the diploma of doctor honoris causa during the solemn session on October 10, 2019.
The Natural History Museum in London announces on October 25, 2019 that entomologist Michael Darby has named a tiny, newly discovered beetle Nelloptodes gretae, named after Greta, in reference to her slogan ‘We do’ is never too small to make a difference ”and with regard to its contribution to environmental issues.
On December 11, 2019, she was named Personality of the Year 2019 by Time Magazine, and thus became the youngest recipient of this distinction, awarded since 1927 by the American magazine185. It also makes her the first person openly displayed as autistic to obtain this recognition.
On December 19, 2019, she was named in Nature’s top 10 as a “climate catalyst” and for “channeling the rage of her generation and bringing climate science to the fore. “Greta has inspired scientists as well as activists and policy makers,” says Angela Ledford Anderson, director of the Climate and Energy program at the Union of Concerned Scientists in Washington DC.
In 2019, she is 100th in the list of the hundred most powerful women in the world according to Forbes.
In May 2020, she received a prize of 100,000 dollars from Human Act, a Danish NGO. She donates this prize to Unicef because “Like the climate crisis, the coronavirus pandemic is a crisis for children’s rights. It will affect all children, now and in the long term, and vulnerable groups will be the most affected. Human Act joins the gesture with an additional donation of 100,000 dollars to Unicef.
In July 2020, she received the first edition of the Gulbenkian Prize for Humanity dedicated to the fight against global warming for an amount of one million euros. The young activist declares that the first projects supported by her foundation through this award will be medical aid to native communities in the Amazon during the pandemic and support for the Stop Ecocide Foundation so that the International Criminal Court can prosecute ecological crimes.
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