Greta Thunberg, the green teen from Sweden who has become the poster child for climate change after starting a school strike movement a year ago, has been attending protests since she arrived from Europe on a racing yacht last week.
The activism of Greta Thunberg — including refusing to fly on a plane — has gained international attention from both those who agree with her climate agenda that calls for giving up fossil fuels and meat and those who see her as a pawn in the hands of much older climate zealots whose politics are distinctly as far left as their climate plans.
And because she is just 16 years old, the debate takes on a different twist: Adult climate change deniers are bullying a kid who just wants to save the planet.
Andrew Mitrovica, a climate change believer who lives in Canada, penned a column in Al Jazeera calling those who question Thunberg’s mission “scientifically illiterate bullies.”
In his commentary, titled “Who is Afraid of Greta Thunberg?” Mitrovica, who teaches college at Sheridan College, praises her as “prophetic” and attacks those who disagree:
In words and deeds, Thunberg is the embodiment of philosopher Howard Zinn’s admonition: “We don’t have to engage in grand, heroic actions to participate in the process of change. Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can quietly become a power no government can suppress, a power that can transform the world.”
Of course, the marauding swarm of vitriolic right-wing climate-change deniers see Thunberg – not how the prophetic Zinn envisioned her – but as a tiny, pretentious zealot who threatens the existing order. Their order. Their comforts. Their traditional “way of life.”
"The marauding swarm of vitriolic right-wing climate change deniers see Greta as a tiny, pretentious zealot who threatens the existing order. Their order. Their comforts. Their traditional 'way of life.'" — writes Andrew Mitrovica for #AJOpinion https://t.co/31vzvwBV0e
— Al Jazeera English (@AJEnglish) September 1, 2019
Those who question a child traveling the world to advance policies that are, to some, not only unnecessary and unrealistic but could even be harmful are now bullies, according to her supporters.
Thunberg has been open about her Asperger’s diagnosis, but she has also suffered from depression and an eating disorder. Now she is putting herself in the public spotlight and seems surprised when people take sides.
“When haters go after your looks and differences, it means they have nowhere left to go. And then you know you’re winning!” Thunberg tweeted.
“I have Aspergers and that means I’m sometimes a bit different from the norm. And – given the right circumstances- being different is a superpower,” Thunberg tweeted.
She has also shared on social media some of her other struggles.
When haters go after your looks and differences, it means they have nowhere left to go. And then you know you’re winning!
I have Aspergers and that means I’m sometimes a bit different from the norm. And – given the right circumstances- being different is a superpower.#aspiepower pic.twitter.com/A71qVBhWUU
— Greta Thunberg (@GretaThunberg) August 31, 2019
She also tweeted about what she was like before she hit the international stage:
Before I started school striking I had no energy, no friends and I didn’t speak to anyone. I just sat alone at home, with an eating disorder.
All of that is gone now, since I have found a meaning, in a world that sometimes seems shallow and meaningless to so many people.
— Greta Thunberg (@GretaThunberg) August 31, 2019
“Before I started school striking I had no energy, no friends and I didn’t speak to anyone. I just sat alone at home, with an eating disorder. All of that is gone now, since I have found a meaning, in a world that sometimes seems shallow and meaningless to so many people,” Thunberg wrote on Twitter.
“I’m not public about my diagnosis to ‘hide’ behind it, but because I know many ignorant people still see it as an ‘illness,’ or something negative. And believe me, my diagnosis has limited me before,” she tweeted.
According to the Mayo Clinic, children with Asperger’s can have a range of challenges, including difficulty with social interactions and anxiety.
But Mitrovica blames her feeling targeted on others:
They have mocked her. They have belittled her. They have denigrated her. They have insulted her. They have dismissed her. They have questioned her motives. They have suggested she is anti-democratic. They have, in the fetid recesses of the internet, even threatened her. To afford all their fuming, sophomoric attacks the imprimatur of seriousness, they insist – as they always do – that they are the implacable realists, who, unlike starry-eyed leftists, aren’t duped by the media’s veneration of a youngster peddling doom and gloom over the supposedly still-contested science about whether the end is nigh or not.
The left-wing Common Dreams website also rushed to Thunberg’s defense: “Her defenders said there is but one reason that people attack the person who has galvanized the global climate strike movement: they are afraid of her.”
“The bile thrown at Greta Thunberg is motivated by one thing alone: this incredibly intelligent, eloquent, and compassionate 16-year-old has terrified some of the most hateful and reactionary so-called ‘grown-ups’ on earth,” said British political columnist activist Owen Jones, quoted in the Common Dream blog. “She’s achieved more [at age] 16 than they ever will.”
“Meanwhile, in an interview with the UK’s Channel 4 News, Thunberg said she has nothing to say to people who refuse to believe in the scientific warnings about the climate crisis,” Common Dreams reported.
Mitrovica ends his commentary saying he is one of millions of Thunberg’s fans.
“So, I join millions of other global citizens who have been humbled, inspired and stirred by Thunberg’s steely steadfastness in the face of the often-repellent locusts who come to bury her, not to praise her,” Mitrovica wrote.
Thunberg and other youth “climate change activists” will be speaking at the United Nation’s upcoming climate change summit on September 23 in New York City.
Follow Penny Starr on Twitter.