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Greta Thunberg in Review

Last December, at the UN Climate Change Conference in Poland, elite decision-makers from across the world once again cosied-up to discuss how they might stop the destruction of our planet. Their lacklustre objective at this Conference being to simply implement the totally inadequate capitalist plans that were previously enshrined in the Paris Agreement that they first ratified in 2016. One speaker at the Conference, however, a small and determined fifteen-year-old child named Greta Thunberg, wisely used her platform to berate these world leaders. In her short and fiery speech she was clear that:

“We are about to sacrifice our civilization for the opportunity of a very small number of people to continue to make enormous amounts of money. We are about to sacrifice the biosphere so that rich people in countries like mine can live in luxury. But it is the sufferings of the many which pay for the luxuries of the few.”

She concluded:

“[I]f solutions within this system are so impossible to find then maybe we should change the system itself?

“We have not come here to beg world leaders to care. You have ignored us in the past and you will ignore us again. You’ve run out of excuses and we’re running out of time. We’ve come here to let you know that change is coming whether you like it or not.

“The real power belongs to the people.”

That Greta herself incorrectly believes that the implementation of the Paris Agreement will help solve the environmental crisis is beside the point. This is because what Greta stands for, first and foremost, is action, and it is up to each and everyone of us to determine what type of political action we will be taking to show solidarity with Greta and her ambition to prevent an impending climate catastrophe.

A few months earlier, in September 2018, Greta, speaking to Climate Marchers filling the streets of Stockholm, argued that in the context of “all the political parties that pretend to take the climate question seriously” it was the collective action taken by ordinary people that was critical to saving the planet. She said:

“This is not a political text. Our school strike has nothing to do with party politics.

“Because the climate and the biosphere don’t care about our politics and our empty words for a single second.

“They only care about what we actually do.”

The following month Greta, speaking at an Extinction Rebellion event in London, pointed out the obvious when she explained: “that if a few girls can get headlines all over the world just by not going to school for a few weeks, imagine what we could do together if we wanted to.” This led her to a powerful and very political conclusion:

“Today we use 100 million barrels of oil every day.

“There are no politics to change that. There are no rules to keep that oil in the ground.

“So we can’t save the world by playing by the rules.

“Because the rules have to be changed.

“Everything needs to change. And it has to start today.

“So everyone out there: it is now time for civil disobedience.

“It is time to rebel.”

Greta never misses an opportunity to vent at elites, and so when Greta was invited to address the ruling-class at the World Economic Forum in Davos (in January 2019), she pointed to their inaction, saying that “the truth is we are basically not doing anything.” Furthermore, she was adamant that the climate crisis is not something that we all have created: “Because if everyone is guilty then no one is to blame.” She continued…

“And someone is to blame. Some people – some companies and some decision-makers in particular – have known exactly what priceless values they are sacrificing to continue making unimaginable amounts of money.

“I want to challenge those companies and those decision-makers into real and bold climate action. To set their economic goals aside and to safeguard the future living conditions for humankind. I don’t believe for one second that you will rise to that challenge. But I want to ask you all the same.”

Here it is evident that Greta places little faith in the powerful acting in the best interests of our planet – which is correct — even if her demands are for them to act to simply implement the Paris Agreement. Yet despite her misplaced illusions in such limited international boondoggle, she does comprehend the limitations of our current political and economic system. Thus, the following month when she addressed another ruling-class group in Brussels (the European Economic and Social Committee), she stated:

“Once you have done your homework you realize that we need new politics, we need new economics where everything is based on a rapidly declining and extremely limited remaining carbon budget.

“But that is not enough. We need a whole new way of thinking. The political system that you have created is all about competition. You cheat when you can, because all that matters is to win, to get power. That must come to an end, we must stop competing with each other, we need to cooperate and work together and to share the resources of the planet in a fair way.”

Greta may not use the word socialism, but her fiery words are encouraging millions of people to take to the streets to question the priorities of the political status quo. And given that Greta is from Sweden it is perhaps understandable why she doesn’t automatically look towards socialism as providing any answers to the climate crisis, especially given the utterly useless political role played by the Social Democrat’s in Sweden in fighting to prevent climate chaos. As Greta put in, during a speech she gave in Berlin at the Goldene Kamera Film and TV Awards,

“We live in a strange world…

“Where politicians say it’s too expensive to save the world, while spending trillions of euros subsidizing fossil fuels.

“We live in a strange world, where no one dares to look beyond our current political systems even though it’s clear that the answers we seek will not be found within the politics of today.”

Considering that in this instance Greta was speaking to an audience of celebrities, it is hardly shocking that she would try to encourage them to use their influence to “raise awareness about this global crisis.” But Greta does not talk about spreading knowledge only, as she believes their influence should be used to “help turn individuals into movements. You can help us wake up our leaders – and let them know that our house is on fire.”

Echoing these sentiments, in a speech delivered to the do-nothings inhabiting the European Parliament, she called for a new type of thinking, what she called cathedral thinking which will involve acting now to “lay the foundations” for a new political future “when we may not know all the details about how to shape the ceiling.” And a week later, speaking in London at an Extinction Rebellion Rally she was explicit in stating that…

“…for way too long the politicians and the people in power have gotten away with not doing anything at all to fight the climate crisis and the ecological crisis. But we will make sure that they do not get away with it any longer.”

Indeed, on the same day of this protest, Greta was invited to address political liars in the Houses of Parliament, whereupon she highlighted the fact that our world’s “future was sold so that a small number of people could make unimaginable amounts of money.” As she continued: “You lied to us. You gave us false hope.” After attacking them for their lack of action in tackling climate change, she said:

“The climate crisis is both the easiest and the hardest issue we have ever faced. The easiest because we know what we must do. We must stop the emissions of greenhouse gases. The hardest because our current economics are still totally dependent on burning fossil fuels, and thereby destroying ecosystems in order to create everlasting economic growth.”

The question now for us all, is what is to be done?

Greta for one understands that the answer to this question lies with ordinary people taking political action and that existing political leaders have been complicit in profiting from destroying our planet. Greta also understands that it is not up to her to provide the answers to our planet’s systemic problems; her role is just to show that No One is Too Small to Make a Difference. The answers to the question of what is to be done will therefore need to rise-up from the streets and the developing mass movements across the world, and it is through participating in these mass movement that socialists the world over will need to show that is only through the adoption of our anti-capitalist ideas that we will be able to collectively fight our way to a brighter future that places both humanity and the future of our planet before the profit margins of the global ruling-class!

More articles by:

Michael Barker is the author of Under the Mask of Philanthropy (2017).

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