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This is the year of discussions, pictures and memes circulating on social media and mainly focusing on politicians, Brexit, Donald Trump and other celebrities. However, one person that does not fit in any of those categories but has made the whole world talking is a 16-year-old girl from Sweden.

Greta Thunberg, the daughter of two Swedish celebrities, became known for her activism in her home country in August 2018 at the age of 15. She started sitting out the Swedish Parliament with a sign saying, “School strike for Climate,” yet soon she was not alone.

Together with other students from other communities, they have organized the Fridays for Future Movement, a school climate strike. That movement became global and after Greta’s 2018 UN Climate Change Conference speech, student strikes are taking place every week somewhere in the world, involving millions of participants. One would have thought that the achievements of this young lady would inspire and be applaudable, however she also attracts scores of negative comments and publications around her image, cause, age and disabilities.

The bully syndrome

It is a pity that so many people cannot see the good that can come out of her initiative. Over the past few months that I have been following Greta’s presence in social media, I came across numerous articles, comments and memes, claiming that climate change is not real, that she is funded by George Soros, or even more disturbingly making fun of her Asperger’s syndrome, her looks and speech abilities.

Greta following her arrival by yacht to New York in October this year

I won’t even bother commenting on the later, malicious commentary; however, it is evident that Greta has hit a nerve in many. It is either a fear of change that leads to denial, perhaps coupled with vested interests that hide behind the intentions of such individuals. Or perhaps it is simply envy; a young girl with disabilities, have managed to sit face to face with many world leaders and address them. Instead of applauding, they chose to slander. I personally have a niece and in all honesty if I would like her to be inspired by anyone and choose a role model, I would prefer if that was Greta and not someone from “Love Island” or any other reality TV programme, that shamefully promote a distorted cause for fame.

And I find it very peculiar how some are sceptical about the funding she gets to engage in her activism. Obviously, she receives funding from somewhere, otherwise how could she at that age, cross the Atlantic on a boat? But if this is what we should be focusing on, then why don’t we do the same for her critics and in fact all our politicians? We do not really seek to know who funds any of our elected representatives or journalists, knowing the fact that all electoral campaigns are partially privately funded, and all journalists are getting paid by someone.

Additionally, even if for one moment we accept that climate change is not as serious as some think and calls like Greta’s are in vain, well would it harm anyone to switch to more environmentally friendly industries and finally live more harmoniously with our planet’s ecosystem?

Facts don’t lie

Besides, science and evidence do not lie, however let us for one moment entertain the sceptics. Must we only change our industries and way of life, if the climate change is man-made, I wonder. Since we have found alternatives to our energy needs, or ways to reduce our one-use plastic addiction, pollution and irresponsible wastage of our natural resources, then why we should be compelled to do something about it, only if we are convinced that climate change will destroy us.

Thus, it comes apparent that it is her critics that should be scrutinised of their intentions and funding. They could be simply trolls that target a young ambitious girl with disabilities, or maybe people who fear the change she brings with her actions in all levels. Imagine if all young people followed her example, if industries were forced to change to more environmentally friendly practices or if we collectively stopped eating meat, traveling by plane, etc. Our whole economic model would have to be altered and that is not only frightening to some, but it will also be devastating to their pockets.

In addition, Greta’s success could mean a more engaged and vigilant future generation, socially, politically and environmentally that would send shivers down the spines of many of our elites, that are used to make decisions unchallenged, promoting the financial interests of the few. On the other hand, Greta’s haters can simply be losers. Underachievers, that envy the drive and success of this young girl, because she simply reminds them of all the chances they did not take, all the times they should really have made a stand and express their ideas without fear, but they didn’t. Yet she not only did, but she succeeded in it.

Greta Thunberg has been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize and is personally liaising with many world leaders, scientists and academics. If only every each of us have decided to make a difference in this world, in any way we thought most appropriate, perhaps we would not be bothered by Greta’s actions, rather be focusing on our own very causes. She is calling for a radical change in all levels in our society, politics, economy and lifestyle; that is terrifying for sure and that is why many chose to try and keep her quiet. However, one thing is even more terrifying and that is a future where Greta was right about everything and the world chose not to listen, but mock and silence her.

Finally, we don’t have to adopt all of Greta’s vision for the future. If each one of us made just a small change in their lifestyle, if the only promise we made was to manage our resources better and limit our impact and pollution in our environment, then ultimately it would be for our own benefit, not Greta’s.

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Christos Mouzeviris
Christos Mouzeviris is a Greek journalist and photographer based in Dublin. Christos is pro-European and a federalist and is Sub-Editor of Europa United.

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