“I want you to act as if our house is on fire. Because it is.” – Greta from her speech “Our House is On Fire” at the World Economic Forum, Davos, 25th January 2019
Greta Thunberg – a student climate activist – wouldn’t want me to be impressed by her or what she says and she certainly wouldn’t be much bothered about me getting a selfie with her, but she would want me to panic. As it stands: I am impressed by her and what she says, I wouldn’t be too fussed about a selfie, but I am panicked, as we should all be. Save for catching an excerpt of her London speech at the Extinction Rebellion rallies earlier in the year, this little book has been my first real exposure to her work.
The book is a simple thin volume with a price tag to match, and as its modest name and cover suggests, no one is too small to make a difference. The book comprises of many of Greta’s speeches to date, which carry some powerful messages.
“We will never stop fighting,” says Greta, “we will never stop fighting for this planet, and for ourselves, our futures, and for the futures of our children and our grandchildren.”
I’m terrified and embarrased that we’re admist the planet’s sixth mass extinction for which we’re at least mostly responsible, but what’s worse is that most people – and certainly most people in power – don’t give two hoots about it. They live safe in the knowledge that at the end of their terms, some other buggers will have to deal with the problem. And it’s a flippin’ doozie.
Despite being unanimously correct, Greta certainly has her detractors, like Extreme weather forecaster Piers Corbyn who was evidently annoyed when his brother Jeremy met with Greta, labelling her an “ignorant brainwashed child”. His barely intelligable Twitter account drones on about Extinction Rebellion being a hashtag “Death Cult” and Climate change as a mammoth hoax. He comes off as a narky conspiracy theorist, calling out in his eyes the corruption behind the Paris agreement, which agreed to bring all nations together “…to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius.”* and stoked the fire of an (albeit limited) climate crisis acknoweldgement around the world. Piers and others basically don’t think this crisis is man-made, or even a crisis. “People tell me im retarded, a bitch and a terrorist,” Greta recalls, “and many other things,” addressing those who have attacked her head-on. “I have aspergers syndrome, and to me, everything is black and white.”. She sees it as a gift, not an encumbrance, so she can easily bypass the spin and bullshit and look only at the facts. Good for her, and I’d imagine anyone with Brexit fatigue who happens to believe in climate change will feel the same; this is clearly a time when we should be as afraid as our children and uniting with Europe, not squabbling like adults over how everything will be dissected and we’ll be a much lesser force to combat our hardest trial we’ve had to face as a species so far. And we may not even have the luxury of twelve years to turn things around, but maybe as little as eighteen months.
I’m not saying there’s not the slightest possibility 97% of scientists who agree that climate change is man-made are wrong, but I’m certainly not saying the 3% of scientists who presumably disagree with the IPCC are right, either. I’m erring on the side of caution and going with the 97% – besides, even if climate change isn’t man-made – we’re hunting and killing animals to extinction, destroying coral reefs, poisoning ourselves and everything else with plastic and fumes and other terrible shit. Surely what we’re doing is wrong? Perhaps we should do something about it, right? Although I don’t understand why anyone would contest climate change. One woman commented in a Facebook reply with “We’re all fucked anyway!”. This from a woman holding a child in her photo, possibly her daughter. Don’t get me wrong – I’d love to be wrong and I’d love for Greta to be some sort of carbon tax based propaganda tool. If it means the world is fine albeit corrupt (hey – look at the guys running the show!) and we can carry on without worrying then that’d be fine; take my fucking money. However, this isn’t a dream we can just wake up from and Greta is not a fake prophet. She’s a scared child, like the rest of us. I’d wager the people who verbally attack people like Greta are mostly projecting – knee-jerks from those who feel guilt from doing nothing, from being afraid, or from some other motive e.g. who profit from harming the environment and it would not do to defend it.
If you’re interested in a quick crash-course in Climate Change – should you belive it’s even a thing – you’d do worse than to pick up this little book. It’s a swift read, factual and brings you up to speed on Greta’s thinking. There’s a fair bit of repetition given the relatively short space of time between speeches documented in the book, but this is reflected in the price. To close her TV Awards speech in Berlin Greta muses: “We are failing but we have not yet failed. We can still fix this,” she assures, clearly not pulling any punches, but there’s still an element of hope – “It’s up to us.”
You can buy the book from Penguin.
*Taken from the United Nations Climate Change website.