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Who is Greta Thunberg? Show more Show less

The 16-year-old Swedish climate activist has emerged as the face of environmentalism. Her school strike ignited a global movement, she has addressed US Congress and the United Nations on the threat of climate change and now she has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. But who is Greta Thunberg?
Greta Thunberg is a young, inexperienced, privileged teenager who travels around the world to address international bodies.
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Greta Thunberg reeks of privilege

Greta comes from a very wealthy family. When someone born with a silver spoon in their mouth tells others to change their lifestyle, it does not go down well.

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Context

She comes from an incredibly wealthy family. When a rich 16-year-old who has never had to struggle is telling the world to stop pursuing economically beneficial policies that might lift more people out of poverty because of environmental concerns, it comes across a grossly unfair.

The Argument

Greta Thunberg’s movement began with her launching a weekly school strike. What began as just Greta sitting alone outside the Swedish parliament building every Friday, evolved into the school strike movement we have seen today. But in pursuing this form of protest, Greta was acting selfishly and showing off her privilege. Greta was skipping classes at a highly sought-after school for students with special educational needs. Swedish parents fight tooth and nail to get their children into the school, and in striking every Friday, Greta was squandering a place that could have gone to someone else that desperately needed it.[1] Her family have monetised her climate change activism. Her mother released a memoir following the global success of her school strikes. Even her decision to take solar-powered yacht across the Atlantic Ocean to address the United Nations in New York were a showcase of her immense wealth, family connections, and privilege. Her financial backing and comfortable lifestyle blunt her message. A rich girl born with a silver spoon in her mouth telling the heads of states not to pursue environmentally-damaging economic policies that could lift millions of families out abstract poverty reeks of elitism, neocolonialism and hipocrisy.

Counter arguments

Why does her family background disqualify her from becoming a leader of the global climate movement? Her family did not gain their wealth through coal plants or engaging in other industries that were destructive of the environment. Therefore, they are not disqualified from engaging in climate change activism due to their finances. There is not an earning threshold which prohibits rich people from caring about the environment. Greta Thunberg is deeply passionate about the topic and has organically succeeded in bringing different factions of the global youth climate change movement together in her school strikes. Her ability to mobilise and inspire should be sufficient to qualify her to lead the youth movement. Also, many of her stunts have no reflection on her family's wealth. Greta’s Atlantic crossing was paid for by a charity who provided the boat for free. The boat was also actively measuring ocean CO2 levels during the crossing. The journey was not just a PR exercise to take Greta Thunberg across the Atlantic to the UN Climate Action Summit, it had scientific merit.[2]

Premises

[P1] Greta comes from a wealthy family and lives a very comfortable life. [P2] Her message involves persuading poor countries to forgo economic development that comes at the expense of the environment. [P3] This reeks of privilege and blunts her message.

Rejecting the premises

[Rejecting P3] Her family did not earn their money through environmentally destructive industries. This should not disqualify her from being on the front lines of the fight for the environment.

References

  1. https://quillette.com/2019/04/23/self-harm-versus-the-greater-good-greta-thunberg-and-child-activism/
  2. https://globalclimatestrike.net/press-release-greta-thunberg-sets-sail-for-usa-onboard-zero-emission-race-boat/

Proponents

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This page was last edited on Friday, 25 Oct 2019 at 14:07 UTC