After a historic 15-day emissions-free trip across the Atlantic to join climate change protests in New York, climate change activist Greta Thunberg has touched on land to find support from many, but also the vitriolic outcry of those who fear change. Right-wing commentators and climate change deniers have made exceedingly negative personal comments about her, with Canadian politician Maxime Bernier calling her “mentally unstable”, the CBC reports. Australian columnist Andrew Bolt called her “deeply disturbed.” Thunberg has Asperger’s syndrome and responded on Instagram saying “I’m sometimes a bit different from the norm… Being different is a superpower.”
These commentators have been widely criticized for their words, with some noting their bullying of a 16-year-old girl. Andrew Mitrovica at Al Jazeera calls them “scientifically illiterate bullies,” who “amplify their malice and ignorance with a bullhorn on TV or keyboard on Twitter.” Actress and activist Jameela Jamil offered words of encouragement to Thunberg, saying “We are all behind you, pointing our fingers at them with you. Thank you for your tireless efforts. You’re going to win, and change the world.”
It is highly inappropriate that adult commentators are making horrific comments about a young woman raising her voice to inspire change and action. It is telling of an insecurity to their climate change denial, stooping to bullying like this. These commentators defend their actions by citing their right to free speech, but in the interests of finding peaceful solutions to the climate problem, base insults are not the mark of intellectual debate.
For the past year, Thunberg has been the figurehead of the “Fridays for Future” movement, inspiring young people to protest outside government buildings in the interests of combating climate change. The movement began with Thunberg protesting outside her home country Sweden’s parliamentary buildings, criticizing the lack of action on climate change. Since then, the movement has spread across the world, with young people striking in around 100 cities worldwide, Time magazine reports. Thunberg has since been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize, and will speak at United Nations Climate Change Summit in New York on 23 September. She chose to sail instead of fly to New York to avoid the emissions that air travel would have, the Guardian reports. Thunberg wants people to “unite behind the science,” wanting the world to actively co-operate in finding a sustainable solution to the effects of climate change.
It is inspiring that someone so young is speaking up, and encouraging others to do so as well. Young people are peacefully protesting for their own future, wanting to work together and act. Thunberg’s actions will hopefully incite politicians to work together to implement policies that ensure there is still a world for these young people to live in.
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