Greta Thunberg – Activist or Actor?4 min read

Zahra Prasetyo

The intentions of Greta Thunberg’s actions are currently being analysed – are her words really her own?

As awareness of the current impacts of climate change is gradually rising, passionate environmental activists cannot help but become household names.

At the age of 16, Swedish activist Greta Thunberg has become a familiar face amongst the many environmental protestors, as well as the rest of the world. With a strong passion for the Earth’s wellbeing, Thunberg founded a movement. The first “School Strike for Climate” was held outside of the Swedish parliament in August 2008. Because she protests for immediate action to climate change, Thunbergs’s passion has been noticed by millions of international viewers.

It is obvious that Thunberg has succeeded in informing the younger generation through the worldwide, youth-led, climate strikes. After an estimated total of four million protesters gathered across over 150 countries, the global strike held on September 20 was a clear success.

As well as the increasing number of supporters Thunberg has gained, plenty of criticism has also come her way. Greta additionally received attention from numerous famous names – from celebrities to political figures, including Piers Morgan and Donald Trump, sparking up a debate amongst the supporters and non-supporters.

“A mentally ill child”?

As an environmental activist, Thunberg’s clearly illustrates her aims to nations worldwide. The 16-year-old claims that due to her Asperger’s syndrome diagnosis, her interest in climate change has gradually increased. After having been referred to as a “mentally ill Swedish child” by a FOX News commentator, Thunberg has said that her disability is what opened her eyes to the ongoing and unspoken crisis.

Attributed to: DonkeyHotey on Flickr.

She also claims that people on the autism spectrum have “a special interest” as an explanation for her significant dedication to the environment. Spending several Fridays on the steps of the Swedish parliament, which gained fame as the political movement Fridays for Future, has evidently gained attention from countless individuals.

As the protestors demand radical response to climate change, others remain indoors investigating Thunberg’s background, raising questions regarding her health condition, family life, and possible external affiliations. Due to her young age, individuals may not take her intentions seriously, leading to a mockery of her speeches.

The criticism

A significant example of this is illustrated by TV presenter, Piers Morgan, who mimicked Thunberg’s speech from the UN Climate Action summit on national television. While attacking the “shameless Extinction Rebellion hypocrites”, Morgan revealed his negative attitude towards climate change activists, especially Thunberg, evident through his attempt at mocking her Swedish accent.

This, however, is nothing compared to an extreme event that recently took place in Italy, where an effigy of what was intended to replicate Thunberg, was hung from a bridge. While every political affair is highly likely to receive a degree of critical analysis, is the amount Thunberg receiving fair, considering her age and health condition?

There has also been speculation concerning Thunberg’s influence – some reporters believe that the 16-year-old’s decisions are being formed by a hierarchy, whether that be her parents or a large organisation.

Thunberg’s parents fully commit themselves to the environmental crisis.

In the past, her mother has been politically active, which may have lead to Thunberg’s activism. Due to the fact that she grew up surrounded by opinions similar to the ones she’s promoting now, it may be argued that Thunberg’s words are not her own.

Attributed to: Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Psychologist Dr Michael Carr-Gregg states that her “criticism isn’t so much of her, but her parents and the climate change activists who use her shamelessly”. Statements like this make it clear that there is an ongoing belief she is being controlled by an upper hand.

So, what’s the deal?

While every success is bound to receive a certain amount of criticism, it is debatable, depending on the context, whether the criticism is worth the success.

It is clear that Thunberg has achieved significant attention worldwide and has managed to spread awareness of the effects of climate change well. If it is true that Thunberg is being influenced by an individual or organisation with greater authority, does it really matter if the outcome is positive?

Although there has been plenty of judgement and negative opinions, Thunberg has evidently continued with her protests and she is as determined as ever to make a change.

Zahra Prasetyo


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