Does it matter who Greta Thunberg is, where she's from, who put her up to it, or what her personal motivation is? The fact is, she is shifting the world’s attention onto a pressing issue that has previously been under-discussed should be all that matters. The messenger could be a polar bear wearing a sombrero, if it gets people talking about climate change, it is having a positive impact.
Greta is an articulate and passionate young woman, who evidently intends to dedicate her life to mitigating the effects of climate change. This is commendable and is getting people to sit up and take note who may not have previously been involved in climate activism. Regardless of where she came from, who her parents are, or who might have put her up to it, Greta Thunberg is an enormously influential figure in the climate change movement. She has no issue admonishing world leaders, despite being a 16-year-old. In her address to the UN, she scolded them for their inaction. “We are in the beginning of a mass extinction, and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth,” she said, ending with an abrupt, “how dare you.” She is highly capable at inducing shame from all corners of the population for inaction over climate change. She tells us, in no uncertain terms, that our actions may bring life on earth to the brink of extinction. This is what makes her such a compelling force for change. Because deep down, everyone knows that she is talking sense. It is our fault. And shame is the only rational response to the consequences of our unfettered pursuit of wealth and materials. A recent poll indicated that one in three Germans had changed their opinion of climate change as a direct result of Greta Thunberg's actions. In the modern world, few people have the ability to break through the noise and alter people's opinions. The fact that Greta can means she is a gem, regardless of her identity.
But her identity does matter. The climate change movement is not taking place in a political vacuum. It is a part of the post-colonial world, and for a white, wealthy, European girl to stand up and tell developing countries that are only just beginning to reap the benefits of fossil fuels to abandon their plans for economic development and forgo higher standards of living to mitigate the environmental damage the West is causing, is just plain wrong. Just because Greta is a persuasive speaker and masterfully invokes feelings of guilt and shame to mobilise the population, does not mean we can turn a blind eye to how grossly unfair her message is. There are neo-colonial undertones to her message of which she is likely unaware. These are a direct result of her identity and social status. With these forces at play, her identity becomes highly important, and should not be overlooked when she is delivering her climate message.
[P1] Greta Thunberg is drawing attention to an existential crisis. [P2] Her actions are getting more people to participate. [P3] Her identity is not important. Only her actions are.
[Rejecting P3] Her identity is highly important. It adds a neo-colonial undertone to everything she does.