Thank Goodness for Greta

Greta has published a new book. Her first name is all you need to know who I mean … and even that’s unnecessary to recognize the teenager on the cover of the current Time. How predictable that when the magazine made her Person of the Year commentators divided like the fabled sea so the the Children of Israel to could pass. But her passage has been far from smooth or even safe. Many people admire her stoical mien and meteoric rise from a lonely caller for action on climate from the steps of Sweden’s parliamentary buildings to represent millions on the world’s stage. Shameless critics write ugly diatribes, doubtless without reading No One is Too small to Make a Difference (Penguin, 2019). But she joins an admirable tradition of ‘small’ people, like Emmeline Pankhurst and Mohandas Gandhi, harangued for unpopular messages before universal honor.

Greta Thunberg

No matter how sincere a conviction, it is empty without a foundation. Greta earned attention by sticking to science. It is ironic that most climate change deniers are not anti-science, for they embrace its fruits (weather forecasting and electronic media, electricity and air travel, and encourage children to study STEM subjects and acknowledge the benefits of science in countless other ways). Human nature can be puzzling.

Greta writes, “unite behind the science, that is our demand.” The book assumes the authority of careful independent research since humanity has not found a better way to understand the world, make our lives easier, and conquer pain. She urges greater investment in technology for low-carbon economies, wishes for more cooperation and less competition, and hopes for environmental justice and the curbing of habitat loss. None of this is fresh thinking but a young voice must be heard for her generation will live to see how hostile the planet will turn.

The devastating effects of fire I saw recently on Notre-Dame cathedral was an apt analogy for Greta’s speech to the European Parliament. There was a more rapt response and no twitter tantrums there. She said, “I want you to act as if your house is on fire. Because it is.”