Greta inarticulates her vision for saving the planet …
The blurby bit
An evening with Greta Thunberg for the global launch of The Climate Book.
The Climate Book brings together an unprecedented collective of over 100 experts, activists and witnesses to tell the biggest story in the world: how and why our planet is changing.
It is a clarion call to create change. It presents a global overview of the many, interconnected crises unfolding across the planet today, and reveals the part we can all play in securing a safe future for life on Earth.
The book contains testimonies from scientists and engineers, youth leaders and indigenous communities, national and international thinkers, and the voices of the most affected people and areas on the front line of climate change.
The Climate Book features renowned scientists such as Johan Rockström, Michael Mann, Katherine Hayhoe, Friedrike Otto, Stefan Rahmstorf, Saleemul Huq and Carlos Nobre, as well as luminaries like Thomas Piketty, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Naomi Klein and Amitav Ghosh.
These are stories to inspire hope through action in the urgent fight for the wellbeing of this planet. After all, if a schoolchild’s strike could ignite a global protest, what could we all do collectively if we tried?
In this launch event, Greta Thunberg is in conversation with journalist, writer and broadcaster Samira Ahmed.
Presented in partnership with Penguin LiveFrom the Southbank website
Before we got into the building
The Southbank took the unusual step of closing the building for a hour on the day of Greta Thunberg’s appearance for ‘security’, thus when we duly arrived the entrances were mob-handed by security guards bought in specially for the event. There was a ticket check outside, then a bag check outside the main door and then another ticket check inside before we were allowed to wander around the building. Outside though it was only Piers Corbyn plus cronies protesting.
Inside the hall
Surprisingly few mask wearers among a packed hall of social justice warriors and many had bought their offspring with them, with constant walkouts to take said small children to the toilet or perhaps it was just too boring for them.
With the typical hypocrisy expected from the Thunberg team, a huge screen had been unnecessarily been erected inside the hall itself. The event was being streamed live, so I can understand the need for multiple cameras, but the Royal Festival Hall isn’t Wembley and there was no need to see Greta’s sweet little face projected five metres high.
The Southbank introduces itself to us
We were shown a nauseating two minute video from the Southbank about the work they are engaged with and what they care about. The focus of the film was clearly very much ‘black lives matter’ as their first principle.
Then the artistic director, recently hired Mark Ball, introduced Greta. The event was the finale of the London Literature Festival and what better way to celebrate ‘literature’ than push a book which is explicitly political in nature? Ball described her as ‘one of the most powerful voices of our time’ (I’d suggest inarticulate and evasive instead) and announced that the Southbank Centre would be putting the ‘climate change emergency at the centre of all our work’ (a brief scroll through upcoming art exhibitions is extremely heavy on the use of electricity and there are several visiting orchestras).
Ominous trailer to promote book
The film opens with an aerial shot, birds bleating, over a waste refill site. The talking heads are very persuasive but as per usual, as a doubter, it’s difficult to even know where to begin to question what they are asserting. However, when novelist and clownfish enthusiast Margaret Atwood pops up to tell us that the arctic glacier is receding we can be pretty sure that at least some of the claims in the book are merely anecdotal. Certainly one photograph used to illustrate drought looks as if it was a stock photo of the Atacama Desert (see first photo in this article), a place where it is claimed rain hasn’t fallen for 500 years.
Greta blinked like an idiot savant as she was greeted by rapturous applause. In her speech she told us that the idea of the book had come to her during lockdown, and that lockdown had been necessary to keep people safe. In the two years following the cessation of normal life things had gotten so much worse because fossil fuels were on a boom. She stupidly claimed that economic packages, like the UK’s furlough scheme, were made to ‘save the planet’. Erm, no Greta, that was not their purpose. Not everything is about you, you know.
The nub of Greta’s talk is below. Not real concern about actual planet degradation but the oft repeated whine about ‘colonialism’, whilst being careful to omit empires are not much of an actual thing any more. She did not specify who or what was the subject of genocide, the dictionary definition of the word is supposed to only apply to humans.
We are never going back to normal again, because ‘normal’ was already a crisis. What we refer to as ‘normal’ is an extreme system based on exploitation of people and planets. It is a system defined by colonialism, imperialism, oppression and genocide by the so-called Global North to accumulate wealth that still shapes our current world order.Greta Thunberg speech from 13.20 minutes in
She went onto describe the extraction of fossil fuels as ‘racist’, music to the ears surely of her white middle class audience, eager to deflect their ‘white privilege’ guilt elsewhere. Greta, never missing an opportunity to emphasise her youth, reminded us that she was ‘two years old’ when a landmark study was done which proved everything was going tits up and that now we only had a decade left to sort things out. Unfortunately little Greta didn’t want to give advice about what we could practically do about this. She just wanted us to worry about it. Very very much. People knew there was a climate crisis and politicians were repeating the mantra but they were failing to explain exactly what the crisis was, she complained. People in glasshouses, Greta.
Greta told us there was ‘acute hunger’ in the ‘Horn of Africa’, i.e. two wonderfully nebulous descriptors, the latter covering a number of east African countries, or might not, depending on the definition you prefer, but includes Ethiopia.
Fascist movements offering easy false solutions and scapegoats to complex problems are growing and becoming normalised, even in countries like mine.Greta Thunberg, 20 mins
‘What fascist movements?’ you might ask. Well, conveniently Greta forgot to fill in the detail, preferring instead to let us make up our own minds about who we regarded as ‘fascist’. Maybe the Western governments who just bailed out ordinary people to the tune of trillions of dollars? We needed to sound the alert for climate change, not for ourselves or offspring (no self-interest tolerated) but for those who are currently less fortunate than ourselves. We need to rapidly increase awareness, once that awareness had been achieved then we could sort the finer details out. In this case the finer details mean how to end reliance on fossil fuels, so no biggie. The speech ended there and this wheels-cha-cha of a vision was enthusiastically received by the fawning audience. Greta looked embarrassed, as she should be.
Samira Ahmed, the journalist who ‘interviewed’ her (more of a brown nosing really) came out in sympathy by wearing a red designer suit, Greta preferring the simplicity of a white jeans, red T-shirt matched with red trainers.
Greta’s team had naturally coordinated the release of the book with COP27, and hence could ride on the tailcoats of all the press generated by the summit attended by world leaders. Ahmed, however, appeared to believe that this was incidental and clucked embarrassingly over Greta like a broody hen.
I got to see a draft of your speech that you were working on and I thought, this was a bit like checking one of my daughters’ essays, and it was the most beautifully written and carefully researched and expertly informed essays that I have ever read in my life … can I take a moment to say you are the coolest 19 year old I have ever met?Samira Ahmed, 24 mins, referring to the speech Greta had just given
Greta tittered in response and the audience roared their applause. It’s like Saffy from Ab Fab finally got her moment in the sun, isn’t it?
The importance of friends
Greta was asked about her friendships and responded you needed to make friends for the movement to be effective. She claims to have ‘selective mutism’. Ahmed was utterly amazed that Greta had managed to make friends and I’m inclined to agree, given she has all the dynamism of a boiled turnip. When she confirmed to Ahmed she had never made an excuse to hand her homework in late because she had been addressing the UN, Ahmed offered to be her surrogate mother.
How should people take your book?
Greta described the problem that most people face when thinking about the climate crisis. Where do we find reliable information? Which books should we consult? The anthology of essays then was the perfect antidote to what people needed (a sort of The Climate Change for Dummies, if you will, and I note the Dummies series got there a few months earlier than Greta’s team, releasing theirs in April 2022).
I wanted it to be educational, which is a bit ironic, when my thing is school strikes.Greta Thunberg, 30 minutes
Instead of explaining any of the theories or science contained in the book Greta told us it was ‘hard’ to read but ‘something we need to get through’.
Don’t worry about your personal actions
Appears to be one of the messages. Ahmed, a professional journalist, was absolutely overawed that she had found out from Greta that BP was the first to coin the phrase ‘personal carbon footprint’. Greta told us that the crisis cannot be solved by us making tiny little changes in our lives, the changes needed to be ‘drastic’. Recycling or becoming vegan would make little difference. Okay then, we won’t.
What gave you the courage to start the movement all those years ago?
This was a question from the audience. By ‘all those years ago’, the questioner meant 2018, which is four years ago. The kind of question a 19 year old might ask of another 19 year old. Greta explained that she would turn off the lights in her home if they were empty and claims this would annoy her parents. Erm, why exactly?
Greta became vegan and ‘stopped flying’. She gave money to good causes but nothing changed and she didn’t fit into social situations because she was ‘too shy and autistic’. Greta realised she had to strike out on her own and thus came the school strike. Funnily enough she didn’t mention Fridays for Future at all, the organisation behind her. I guess when you’re as privileged as she is, missing school every Friday is no biggie.
Greta explained that during her initial school strikes she would hand out leaflet full of facts, directly contradicting the joke delivered a few minutes earlier. When Greta realised that her angelic face dressed with braids was more effective than actual information she stopped putting out the leaflets, but reflected ‘it was sad’ without sounding like she believed it. I feel this is really the key to the whole of Greta’s success, a blameless slightly moronic face.
How did you feel when you saw so many kids get involved with the school strikes?
Question apparently sent in by a 9 year old. Greta said it was amazing to see stuff on her mobile phone. Ahmed asked if people put pressure on her parents to try to stop her, Greta said yes, but when asked for examples it was clear that no one has ever asked her to stop, least of all her parents.
They’re the people that control everything, who say they understand everything, our so-called leaders, who have betrayed the youth of the world, said Greta. Ahmed probed her twice on this, suggesting to her that politicians must get nervous meeting her. Greta obligingly admitted that the most powerful richest influential people in the world got intimidated by teenagers.
Really? Has she ever even met with a CEO of a fossil fuel giant? I suspect not. She has merely met with some political leaders, who have exploited her for their own PR purposes.
Greta thinks politicians have been ineffective in finding solutions and that if they really cared they should simply walk away, thereby taking themselves out of the sphere of influence altogether. Anarchy is really what she is promoting, because remember she doesn’t just want one politician to do this, but all of them. Ahmed, so starstruck was she by her darling Pippi Longstocking, failed to respond appropriately to this bombshell answer, or at all.
The arrogance of youth
[I]t has always been young people who have leading the change and who have wanted to change our societies for the better but now it’s more and more people, older people are starting to realise this [i.e. the climate emergency] and are taking up a bit of the burden. […] We need billions of climate activists, so everyone is welcome, everyone is needed.Greta Thunberg at 47. 50 minutes
Social unrest and vandalism
Ahmed made the point that the shenanigans of Extinction Rebellion and Just Stop Oil had alienated a lot of people but she wanted to know, ‘Did it matter if we upset people?’ At first Greta feigned reticence on the issue before admitting she thought such actions ‘only reasonable’. Spontaneous applause followed. Annoying people was one thing, harming them something different, she added. Ahmed should have leapt in to point out ambulances had been blocked but of course she didn’t, because Net Zero nutters believe in collateral damage.
The culpability of the media
Ahmed wanted to know if she had spoken to the media about its poor reporting and Greta claimed, without referring any specific conversation, that she knew of journalists who wanted to write about the climate emergency but weren’t allowed to. Again Ahmed, who has over 30 years of journalist experience, lapped up this insipid answer. Every major media outlet has an environment/science reporter so this is as unbelievable as it is untrue.
Tokata Iron Eyes
Greta visited Minnesota, a US state which received many Swedish immigrants in the 1880s, to met Native American environmental activist Tokata Iron Eyes. Interestingly Iron Eyes identifies as ‘non-binary’ and is one of the young girls who came under the control of trans-identified actor Ezra Miller. She is also the same age as Greta and got into activism as a result of pushy parents.
Ahmed wanted to know what it was like to meet this activist. Greta answered a different question altogether. She had visited a Swedish graveyard in Lindstrom and saw that they all had proper gravestones but when she went to an Indian reservation she visited a mass grave and realised that the Swedish had been colonisers and that there was ‘environmental racism’.
We never got to hear about her meeting with Tokata Iron Eyes, nor did Ahmed remind her of the original question.
Lessons from COVID
It proved that we were capable of treating an issue like an emergency. Greta illogically explained that the things we missed the most was not international travel but meeting up with friends and loved ones. Sometimes that involves international travel, pet. (Of course, it’s okay to be an international jetsetter if you’re Greta or a member of her extensive team.)
Climate change was all the fault of those greedy people who wanted to make money and had all the power. Sound familiar? People who had benefited from the existing system couldn’t imagine a better world and this made Ahmed think of Elon Musk as a person lacking imagination. Greta giggled. Greta thought Musk shouldn’t spend money on space rockets.
COP27 in Egypt
Ahmed spoke about how Rishi Sunak had refused to attend and that it was being held in Sharm El Sheikh, a tourist resort with sustainability problems and that Egypt itself was known for human rights abuses, but what did Greta think? Parroting the question back to Ahmed, Greta noted that it was bad that it was being held in a tourist resort with known problems, in a country which had known human rights abuses, and that it was bad some people weren’t going (i.e. Sunak) but that politicians (Mem: the ones who should jack their jobs in, because politics wasn’t working) should go because it was important, although the conference wasn’t really that effective and was a massive ‘greenwashing’ event. Round of applause for this mess of an answer.
Yeah, Greta is a big fan of technological solutions. Unfortunately there wasn’t enough time for any single solution to save us and we should focus on awareness raising instead. Which led us nicely onto …
Question sent in by woman who worked with children and young people for the mental health charity MIND, who also had two teenagers herself, wanted to know how she could help young people cope with the fact that the planet was about to implode very soon. ‘You’ll know there are many young people who can’t sleep at night,’ Ahmed added. Greta had been through that herself and reflected:
[I]t’s just such a massive responsibility to fall on a child, to learn that all this is happening and no one is doing anything about it basically.Greta Thunberg at 1.07 minutes
The best way to make a difference
Become an activist. Educate yourself about the climate. Spread awareness. Become an activist.
How do I get my school engaged?
Question from 12 year old school girl who held position as an Eco Rep. Greta spent an undue amount of time talking about how impressed she was and that she knew this child was probably being victimised for her position. She eventually settled on telling the child to get her friends involved, which still left the question of how you do that. Greta reminded us again of her previous friendlessness state, otherwise known as the carrot and stick.
How do we persuade people with busy lives to make the behaviour changes necessary for Net Zero?
Greta correctly explained that it was only privileged people who had the time to worry about the end of the world but the real people experiencing the climate crisis were people in Third World countries who didn’t have a roof over their heads (or, she might have added, coal to burn on a fire).
Greta never tells anyone they should stop flying (except her parents) it’s just something that people need to realise they need to stop.
Do you do things differently in your activism now?
Yes, said Greta, and waffled away. Ahmed wanted an example so Greta waffled a bit more without giving a specific example of anything she was doing differently.
What do you do to relax to avoid burnout?
Greta was very embarrassed by this question. Greta likes dancing, with or without friends, and reading novels. Greta had apparently sung a Christmas carol during the soundcheck and uttered the name of it in Swedish. If you want to know the general intellectual level of the room, people genuinely had a moment because the live transcriptor used the words ‘continues in Swedish’. Hilarious, huh? Ahmed told her that she was ‘remarkable’ because she could speak two languages fluently, despite this being extremely common in Europe, especially since most European universities now teach STEM degree courses exclusively in English.
Bringing people together so they can express their concerns. Greta wanted more bodies into the movement.
Question about being an outsider
A teen who described herself as an autistic outsider, who was being made fun of for being a vegetarian, wanted to know how she could make a difference.
‘Do what you feel is right,’ came in the inexact answer from Greta. Interestingly she commented that there were ‘so many’ in the climate movement who were on the autism spectrum. Greta reflected that she had also felt alone and like an outsider when she begun her activism. That also appears around the time that she received her diagnosis. Further advice included ‘find people who are like you’ through a local activism group. The answer got her another round of applause.
Ahmed was again interested to know what Greta does in her spare time, in between trying to save the planet. Greta gets up early and goes to bed early. During the ‘breaks in school’ (i.e. university) she would sit and work, or else she is on her bike to attend a meeting or a strike. Friends and family were supportive and tell her ‘calm the fuck down’. Swearing made her bashful and she giggled.
How do we deal with greenwashing by fossil fuel corporates?
Make them pay and hold them accountable, Greta said to more applause. Greta said the corporations had spent decades denying and deflecting about the problems and were prolonging the problem as much as they can just so they could make a bit more money.
Ahmed made some practical suggestions and asked Greta what she thought. A system wide transformation was the answer and ‘everything’ needed to change, or else.
What do you see politicians being able to do?
I think Ahmed was maybe getting slightly frustrated as this was more or less the fourth or so iteration of this question. Greta, undefeated, waffled about the importance of making change. Pushed to give examples, she agreed that there were examples which could be given but that the main source of hope was from ordinary people. It was a reminder that there were good people in the world and that she was not alone.
Would you consider going into elected office?
‘If I ever do, tell me to stop,’ giggled Greta. And got a round of applause. She explained that politics couldn’t really change things, it was more to preserve the status quo.
How much time do we have left?
Greta wisely avoided giving any time specific deadlines but encouraged everyone not to worry too much about the human race’s imminent demise (‘things might not go in the right direction for us but that is not an excuse to despair’).
Greta will not be profiting from the book which is being sold off the back of her image, rather the profits will go to her foundation, to be distributed to charities ‘in line with our kind of activism’.
What are your plans for the future?
Greta reminded us again that it was past her bedtime and the immediate plan was to go to bed with a bottle of warmed milk. Otherwise she would be taking things one day at a time. Cue a most undeserved standing ovation.
What did Lies think of Greta then?
God, it was so boring I found myself closing my eyes for several minutes, drifting off every now and then. Others sitting close by appeared to be less than impressed by the child wonder as she repeatedly failed to elucidate on – well- anything, basically. Though I think I understand Greta’s allure a bit better now, people simply project onto her whatever they want to see. For Ahmed she is clearly the well behaved child she would prefer to have had.
Let’s summarise Greta’s message:
- There is not much time left.
- It’s too late for technological intervention.
- Doing politics is pointless.
- Politicians are useless.
- It’s all the fault of a powerful rich secret cabal.
- There is nothing you can personally do to make things better.
- Run around like a headless chicken to let everyone know about points 1-6 at a local group with other autistic selective mutes.
To say it is difficult to find any critical detailed articles about Greta Thunberg and the PR machine behind her is an understatement. I expect money is behind it at all as We Don’t Have Time, a company set up by her initial PR man, Ingmar Rentzhog, sells an app through which anyone can send their own positive or negative climate reports to businesses. And then there is the question of how much Greta’s people might charge for her lectures. If Jack Munroe can get 10-15k, I think we could probably add at least a zero onto the end of that for Greta Thunberg, whose team appears to ask for buildings to be shut down prior to her appearances.
Not really about the environment
Having spent 90 minutes listen to her talk it struck me she never once addressed any of the science behind climate change, facts I would expect her to know off the top of her head by now. That’s because Team Thunberg do not want that conversation, just like those who promote ‘trans rights’ or ‘white privilege’, any conversation about the details would open Greta up to discussing the opinions of scientists who agree that climate change is happening but don’t agree that it is disastrous. Let’s be clear, Greta and her team are claiming if no changes are made in the next ten years, then it is too late to change and specifically that any technological inventions to replace fossil fuels, like harbouring the energy of waves, would also be too late. Let’s hold them to account in ten years’ time.
I almost didn’t write up this event, given that it isn’t strictly what I normally write about (normally only about trans activism or culture), but then on 15 December Greta took the side of trans activists who had blocked women who wanted to see the documentary Adult Human Female at Edinburgh University, thereby clearly supporting the suppression of freedom of speech and the idea that the documentary was ‘transphobic’.
I suspect Greta Thunberg’s team is that rarest of all things, a bunch of cultural marxists who just happen to like making a lot of money. You know, fully automated luxury communists.
For my own part, I am now a sceptic about the climate crisis. Once upon a time, when I was knee high to a grasshopper, I visited what must have been a climate exhibition, perhaps at the Natural History Museum. Woolly mammoths and cavemen shared the same canvas and we learned from the blurb that in the next 30 years the whole of Europe would be covered by an ice sheet as the next Ice Age advanced. I remember asking my mother what would happen to us. She didn’t know. A wave of anxiety and desperation washed over little me that I’ve never forgotten.
About ten years later I had the bejesus taken out of me again by the rapidly growing hole in the Ozone layer. We were all going to fry under the sun unless we bought CFC-free products and stopped its expansion. However, regardless of our commitment to buying the right products the hole just got bigger. Celebrities talked about moving to Australia where apparently the hole wasn’t (or was it the other way round?). No one mentions the Ozone any more. Did we save it? Genuinely never got an update on that.
What on earth must it be like for kids today now the dial has been turned up to eleventy-stupid?
Hating other humans
If you want to know what climate activists really think of people who dare to differ, watch the ad that Richard Curtis did for the 10:10 campaign back in 2010, whose aim was to get everyone to reduce their carbon footprint by ten percent. The sheer malice that disbelievers are treated with will remind you of how disbelievers of all sorts are treated nowadays. On the other hand, the high priests of the religion, like Greta Thunberg, can get away without any major scrutiny even when all she says is ‘blah blah blah‘, as this evening with her proved in spades. I think the children of today will come to despise what she stands for soon enough.
If you would like watch the event in full it is available on YouTube.
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