She wants environmental legislation to ensure a safe planet for future generations. People online want her dead. At only sixteen years old, Greta Thunberg is the biggest climate change activist in the world, having managed to rally millions to strike against their governments’ harmful environmental actions. Why, then, do so many conservatives hate the 16-year-old Swedish activist?
As with all online criticism, there is a spectrum of hate against Thunberg. Her most extreme haters link her blonde braids to Nazi propaganda and threaten to assassinate her. Most of her critics are less violent and conspiratory, resorting instead to dismissive mocking. President Donald Trump himself has taken to making fun of Thunberg, recently retweeting a post with Thunberg’s address to the U.N., in which she spoke about the dangers of a future with no environmental awareness, with the sarcastic, “She seems like a very happy young girl looking forward to a bright and wonderful future. So nice to see!”
Trump’s tweet mirrored ones made every day by countless TV personalities, politicians, and regular Americans, and it demonstrates the resounding sentiment against Thunberg. People see her as pompous and whiny for speaking bluntly about the perils of unsustainable consumption and global warming. They see a healthy-looking young person and fail to grasp why she could possibly be complaining about a bleak future. Thunberg is not just mindlessly complaining, however; she is pleading inactive global leaders to listen to science and take steps against irreversible climate change. Her dystopian descriptions may edge on hyperbolic at times, but nothing she says is malicious or false.
Thunberg is not claiming to be a climate expert or an adept policymaker. When critics lash at her for being a pompous know-it-all, they need to realize that everything she is saying about climate change is not new. Scientists have been saying the same facts for decades. As an activist, her role is simply to encourage everyone, from other teenagers to the most powerful leaders in the world, to listen to the facts and take action.
Beyond the whining, critics see Thunberg as insincere. The activist takes sailboats across the Atlantic to avoid flying, yet her critics still superciliously dissect her each and every action. In a now-deleted Twitter post, a user captioned a photo of Thunberg eating a meal on a train, “Oh she looks so frightened about the immediate climate catastrophe. As she sits there on a train, surrounded by plastic containers and processed foods.” A few notes: traveling by train is 80% cleaner than traveling by car, and, as anyone who has ever been in a grocery store can attest, it is nearly impossible to buy food without some kind of plastic around it.
Thunberg is just a teenage girl whose preoccupation with the desperate state of our environmental future has led her to do something few others have done: demand change. Her dedicated strikings and impassioned speeches have gained her many critics, but they are a small number compared to the millions of young people she has inspired.
Cécile Girard is a 19-year-old biology and psychology sophomore from Lake Charles, Louisiana.