Opinion: Greta Thunberg Makes Me More Uncomfortable Than Climate Change, Here’s Why

If you’ve read or watched the news this week, you’ll know that yesterday, Greta Thunberg traveled to New York to address world leaders at a United Nations climate summit. As she spoke, she addressed the those attending several times.

“How dare you,” she sneered, “how dare you”.

I shook my head and sighed. Greta, Greta, Greta..

I am not against what Greta is doing. Climate change is real, climate change is a problem and climate change is something that should bother and scare us all.

In 2006, I furthered my education. Among things, I studied AS Environmental Science so I absolutely do have some understanding of the consequences of greenhouse gases, climate change and the albedo effect. I also live in Bristol which has been dubbed the UK’s greenest city, and seeing what Bristol does to tackle climate change makes me very happy. For example:-

  • We have quite a complex recycling system that recycles hard plastic, glass, tin, cardboard and textiles at a local processing plant in Avonmouth. Food waste is tipped into a generator and used to generate electricity
  • We have a number of “poo buses” which turn human waste into energy through biochemical processes (no, they aren’t stinky, and each seat has a USB charging point so you can charge your phone)
  • Expansive and regular bus networks, including 3 park & ride schemes which reduce the number of vehicles in metropolitan areas.
  • We have free water fountains, reducing or eliminating the need for plastic bottles and shop-bought drinks

But we could still do more.

A lot of Bristolians are also environmentally conscious, and in our household alone we:

  • Only have the lights on in the room we are sitting in
  • Avoid single-use plastic as much as possible
  • Similar to the above, use silicon freezer bags and paper sandwich bags as alternatives to freezer bags and cling film
  • Recycle diligently
  • Bus everywhere, or car-share
  • Never take foreign excursions
  • Eliminated lamb completely and only eat red meat (usually beef) once per week
  • Eat vegetarian from time to time, and with ease
  • Use energy saving lightbulbs

It’s not a lot, but it is a contribution. If we all make a contribution, then we can all make a difference. While I was rather dubious as to whether the poo-in-a-bucket was really necessary sacrifice on her trip across the Atlantic, Greta at least made a point.

My Problem With Greta Thunberg

Let me begin by saying that I fully understand that Greta has Asperger’s, and I fully understand that people with autistic spectrum disorders can and do have very real struggles in social situations. I admire her bravery for not running away from so much publicity, that alone takes courage.

However, the issue I had was with the way she conducted herself at the summit. She glowered at the world leaders and their interpreters and she asked them, “how dare you?”. That’s a very accusatory tone to take. She also puffed out her cheeks and glared at President Trump. While by no means his biggest fan, I have little doubt that poor Greta will become another cruel internet meme over the next few weeks and months.

The world has failed the next generation. The over consumption of oil, the mass production of carbon dioxide and the abundance of plastic littering the planet has left us with a very real, very big problem. However, to point the finger at people who have undoubtedly been elected to replace those who were responsible poses an ever greater risk. When we point the finger at the people we hope to inspire, they stop listening to us, and rightfully so.

If you made yourself a drink in my kitchen, only to find me pointing at you and shouting “it’s your fault my water rates are so high!”, wouldn’t you too think I was slightly unhinged, too?

Greta told leaders that they had stolen her future. She spoke of having no future, but that’s not entirely true. She comes from Sweden, one of the most peaceful countries in the world. How does she think the children in Yemen and Syria feel? I have little doubt that they worry about climate change, they just want to survive today. Climate change may be a problem and it may pose a risk (including more wars) to our future generations, but Greta needs to be thankful for what she does have; a peaceful, war-free life, fresh, clean drinking water and a seemingly supportive family.

Of course, I’m not going to deny the theory that Greta may actually be being exploited by her parents, because she may be. As I don’t have evidence to accuse them of any wrongdoing, I can’t speculate on that assessment.

Why Appearance Matters (And The Power Of Colour Psychology)

When you look at Greta Thunberg, the appearance we see doesn’t match the message we are hearing. Her pretty braided pigtails make us think of what she really is; a young child with great aspirations and her whole life ahead of her. I have every suspicion that world leaders probably give her five minutes of fame while they sit and coo about how adorable she is. She might make them listen, but does she convey the desperation and urgency to act that she had hoped for? I doubt it.

For yesterday’s summit, Greta wore a pink top. In colour psychology, pink is a colour associated with femininity, softness and, unfortunately, children. For the message that Greta wanted to convey, then personally, I would have chosen black. For speaking to people as important and as powerful as world leaders (who really do have the power and the ability to bring about change), then presentation and attitude is key to success.

A Ruler, Not A Leader

In my young thirty one years, I have had the pleasure of leading people on several occasions. I do not go out to tell people what to do, but to guide them in the right direction. Unfortunately, on a few occasions, I have had to be more aggressive, but I have never, ever puffed out my cheeks or sneered. if you act like a petulant, moody teenager, then you’ll likely be treated like one, too.

Sadly, Greta Thunberg attempts to uses fear and intimidation to encourage change, and that is completely the wrong approach. If she isn’t too mindful, she risks becoming villainized rather than respected. Rulers like Joeseph Stalin used fear to rule their countries. If Greta wants to inspire people to change, she needs to think a little more Martin Luther King Jr.

People need hope and they need a reason to change. If all people are fed is fear, it won’t inspire any of us to try and change. If we’re going to reduce emissions, then we need to feel encouraged with what we can do.

Greta is an inspiration in and of herself, but sadly, sometimes she uses completely the wrong approach to get her message across. Instead of coming across as firm, she comes across as angry; angry at the very people who actually are willing to listen to her.That’s a very dangerous move.

5 tips for Greta

  1. Try green, brown or mustard yellow Greta represents the earth and all living beings on it. Green, brown and mustard yellow are all ‘earth’ colours. In colour psychology, brown can indicate strength and resistance, where green can symbolise a sense of maturity and yellow can indicate hope. For Greta, I think any of these colours will give her a more mature, more respectable appearance than pink.
  2. Try finger-steepling – Finger-steepling is a gesture I find myself doing a lot and it strikes fear into people who aren’t so sure of themselves. It’s often regarded as a dominance move, but that’s not necessarily true. Rather than dominance, it merely suggests an amount of knowledge on the subject. Even if she stands, crossing her fingers on her stomach would work just as well.
  3. Balance optimism with pessimism – Like I’ve said before, people won’t want to change if they have nothing to change for. Connect to people and inspire hope for future generations. Lead on what can be done today to make tomorrow brighter.
  4. Mind your manners – Smile, even if it is hard. People with Asperger’s Syndrome do find social interaction difficult (I know, I have a friend with Asperger’s Syndrome) but that doesn’t mean to say that you can’t try to be civil. Even if you can’t smile, even if you are upset with someone, learn to control your temper and not let your emotions show. A little bit of emotional regulation can go a long, long way in getting you treated with respect.
  5. Never give up – Above all else, even if Greta has made a few faux pas when it comes to behaving around the most important players, that by no means is to say that she should give up what she is doing. Greta is an inspiration to rethink the way we view climate change and to be passionate enough to fight for what we believe in.

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