House on fire

Greta Thunberg’s Twitter profile

Greta Thunberg:
No One is Too Small to Make a Difference
Penguin 2019

In 2018 Greta,* aged 15, made headlines with her solo school strike over the climate crisis, since which she has received plaudits and vilification in almost equal amounts. “She should not be skipping school,” declare the nay-sayers, “She’s being paid or used, she’s spouting speeches written for her,” shout others without a shred of evidence because they can’t or won’t believe that a teenager can speak so intelligently, passionately and persuasively.

On the evidence of these eleven speeches, given between September 2018 at the Climate March in Stockholm and April 2019 in London at the Extinction Rebellion Rally and the Houses of Parliament, the critics are wrong in every respect.

The climate crisis is real. Those in power aren’t taking it seriously. Every day, every hour, every minute is taking us the point of no return and there is no sense of urgency among governments, transnational corporations and the media. And hers is the generation that will have no future, their education counting for nothing when our world becomes too hostile for the species that still exist on it. For now.

Every speech has a key phrase that spells out her concerns and the concerns that should be alerting everyone to this existential threat:

* Our Lives are in Your Hands.
* Almost Everything is Black and White: as someone with Asperger’s she knows there can be no sitting on the fence over this.
* Unpopular: something she says doesn’t care about being, because speaking out is so much more important.
* Prove Me Wrong.
* Our House is On Fire: a leitmotiv running through these speeches.
* I’m Too Young to Do This.
* You’re Acting Like Spoiled, Irresponsible Children: this actually said to an EU committee.
* A Strange World.
* Cathedral Thinking: the title’s a reference to the fire at Notre Dame in Paris.
* Together We are Making a Difference; and, most poignantly,
* Can You Hear Me? It seems that many in power can’t or, more likely, won’t.

Every single speech is a clarion call, often reiterating the same or similar salient facts and images. The strongest image is that of a conflagration: if your house was on fire would you deny it, or pretend it would somehow reverse in due course? Would you sit around and discuss what you might do about it while staying put without any concern for the vulnerable? Would you merely wring your hands because nobody could agree that the building was going up in smoke or on what action should be being taken?

She doesn’t exactly say this but the terminology we should be using is global heating, not global warming; climate breakdown and not climate change. This is a crisis of our own making and most of us have our heads in the sand.

Everyone should heed what this younger head tells us: she is telling it as it is.

* Autocorrect kept trying to change ‘Greta’ to ‘Great’, which I thought was rather neat.

15 thoughts on “House on fire

  1. I love what she’s doing, but I’m afraid I have given up completely. Trump might be the obvious worst in his deliberate policies, but most other countries do a lot of talking and very little action. Here in Aus the “Environment Minister” (a former mining industry exec) approved a mine that endangered 11 threatened species, the day before the election. And then the Aus people, who say they’re worried about climate change, went ahead and reelected that same party, which contains quite a few outright climate change deniers and a lot of people who say jobs come before the environment. We’re rooned.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I agree. It too often seems like collective madness. It’s also allied to the fact that right-minded people are temperamentally and morally disinclined to play dirty like their opponents, and that’s always going to be to their disadvantage, and to ultimately lead to utter disaster.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Just looking at a couple of godawful vitriol-spewing reviews on Goodreads made me sick at heart — how can the world be so full of hateful specimens of humanity. Thank goodness for the Gretas who are intelligent, clear-sighted beacons for the rest of us.

      Liked by 2 people

    1. The main responsibility lies with multinationals and governments, but we can all do our bit by boycotting firms, joining demonstrations, signing petitions, lobbying councillors and politicians and of course the three Rs—reduce, reuse, recycle etc.


  2. Good for her! I feel hopelessly powerless on this issue. They way so many people have no problem ignoring facts really worries me. It makes me wonder if the the most important thing to be taught in schools might be critical thinking and understanding how to find truth from evidence.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re absolutely spot on, Jo. Critical thinking and properly researched evidence should be the bedrock of all modern education, not learning by rote and multiple choice questions. While in full-time teaching I railed against the pernicious effects of a narrowly taught curriculum ever since the late 80s, and I got out of the system just as soon as I could see that things were going to get worse, not better. And it continues to worsen. It’s hard not to despair.


    1. She’s not lying down: I read in today’s Guardian that she tweeted “Thank you! Our biggest compliment yet!” in response to Mohammed Barkindo, secretary general of Opec, saying that climate activism may be the “greatest threat” to the fossil fuel industry. Opec officials were being pressurised by their own children who had seen “their peers on the streets campaigning against this industry.”

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I think everyone who has already commented has summed up my thoughts pretty well: feelings of powerlessness? Yep. Feelings of gratitude and admiration for this young lady? Yep. Hope and despair? Yep.

    I don’t know what the future holds for Greta’s generation. I desperately hope that individuals and governments and countries can all see past the obsession with money that seems to block any real, positive moves from being made.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It truly feels like a world war, undeclared but real, this battle between sense and decency on the one hand and woeful ignorance on the other. It’s a conflict in which there can be no defence for claiming neutrality, is my feeling.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Greta was, maybe still is, in New York to talk about the climate crisis to the UN. Her impact on public opinion is enormous, and tellingly she’s continually trolled by rich capitalists who don’t like her message because it threatens their profits; they attack her for her youth, her supposed scaremongering, her autism, her gender, you name it — their vitriol shows she threatens their status quo.

      Liked by 1 person

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