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  • October 4th, 2019


By Joel M. Vance


The book of Isaiah in the Old Testament has this quote according to the King James version of what allegedly was said hundreds of years before the king decided to make the Bible his own. “The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the goat,  and a little child shall lead them.” The Biblical prophecy is that if salvation for the world is to happen, sworn enemies will quit their traditional enmity and fall in behind the human symbol of innocence—a child. Or at least, that’s the way I read it.


If it is true that innocence will triumph over ignorance and evil in the long run 16-year-old Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg may very well be the beginning of the realization of Isaiah’s prophecy. She is a leader among a growing group of young people who are fed up with the way we alleged adults are leading the world into an environmental catastrophe. In a nutshell, Greta has told the leaders of the world in blunt terms that if they don’t address climate change immediately she and the generations following her will inherit unimaginable devastation.


In August, Greta Thunberg sailed across the Atlantic Ocean from England to New York in a 60 foot racing yacht equipped with solar panels. It was a one-way trip for the teenager and a co-skipper.  A sailing crew plans to fly to New York to sail the yacht back to Europe while her co-skipper also flies home. Greta, herself, has given up flying because of the carbon emissions that airplanes contribute to the overall detriment of the environment.


Her inspiration for school climate strikes came from teen survivors of the Parkland Florida high school shooting who organized what they called the March for our lives in support of sensible gun regulation in the United States. When her idea for a student climate strike was met by the apathy that seems to infect adults worldwide, she decided to do it by herself, sitting outside the Swedish Parliament with her sign “school strike for the climate”. She also handed out leaflets saying “I am doing this because you adults are sitting on my future.” That scatological insult was enough to get the attention, not only of adults, but of her fellow teenagers.


I can see a parallel between what this courageous Swedish teenager and an increasing number of fellow teens have done to similar acts of revolt and disobedience by young people in the 1960s to protest the Vietnam War. Teenagers then burned draft cards and carried protest signs, and were dismissed by the establishment as long-haired hippies and anti-Americans. But they got results and Vietnam became a defeat for the military industrial complex, but a victory for morality and justice.


Since, the youth of America have become complacent, more interested in consumerism than in activism. It has been tough to get out the vote among young people, but just perhaps the example  one Swedish teenager has set will energize the typical American teenager of voting age to get off his or her lazy butt and go to the ballot box when the next election comes— an estimated 4 million teenagers will reach voting age before the 2020 election.


Greta has what’s called Asperger’s disorder which she describes as “a gift” rather than a disability. Asperger’s is considered a high functioning form of autism rather than a debilitating mental condition. Among the attributes that those with Asperger’s have are, according to what I’ve found about it, are remarkable focus and persistence, aptitude for recognizing patterns, and attention to detail.


If that doesn’t describe the remarkable personality of Greta Thunberg, I don’t know what does. Think of the focus and persistence required to have done what she has done. She is a teenager, a time of life when most youngsters are more focused on the boy of their dreams, the high school sports team, or other activities associated with becoming adults.


Greta has skipped that awkward time of life and has gone directly into adulthood— certainly more adult in behavior than virtually all the people in power whom she has encountered and challenged.


Cal Thomas, a syndicated right wing opinion writer, dismisses Ms. Thunberg ’s right to state her views in a column headlined “knowing at all at 16” in our local newspaper. “How much credibility should we give to a 16-year-old when considering her qualifications to lecture adults about science and an end of the world scenario?” snarled Thomas.


He goes on at length to dismiss her as an attention seeker, offering as his source of rebuttal the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a libertarian think tank.  That group denies the reality of climate change, as do those who disagree with the bulk of scientific thinking— and of the views of a 16-year-old who can see the future more clearly than does Cal Thomas.  Thomas grumbled that Thunberg should be back in school. The fact is that at 15 years old, she took time off from school to spend her school days outside the Swedish Parliament holding up a sign saying “school strike for climate” that energized other students and which soon became a movement, lead and energized– by teenagers— since it was increasingly obvious that the adult world was content to pass along the climate crisis to generations yet to come.


Fox News, which always can be counted on to go low, in the words of Michelle Obama, “When they go low we go high” unleashed one of its right-wing attack dogs Michael Knowles to call the teenager “a mentally ill Swedish child who is being exploited by her parents and by the international left.” Isn’t that a hateful comment by an adult against a child? And that’s nothing, compared to some of the Facebook comments by extremist right-wingers who (speaking of mentally ill) have exposed themselves as the human scum they are.  Fox News did apologize for Knowles’ toxic rant, saying it was disgraceful.  “We apologize to Greta Thunberg and to our viewers.” But I haven’t seen any apologies by the Facebook hatemongers.


If Fox News wants to disparage someone who is mentally ill, let them start with the President of the United States who exhibits so many facets of abnormal mental behavior that a rational person (assuming there is anyone rational among the commentators at the Fox network) would have to assume that the guy is as crazy as the proverbial shit house rat.


Greta Thunberg is bilingual, fluent in English as well as Swedish, and certainly more articulate in either language than the ignorant hatemongers who have posted invective on Facebook against her.  It’s worth reading what she said at the United Nations to the assembled world leaders all of whom presumably are the wise heads of the planet. Given the choice, I would opt for her wise head in preference to the majority of those old and entrenched thinkers.


Said Greta: “I shouldn’t be up here. I should be back at school on the other side of the ocean. Yet you all come to us young people for hope. How dare you! You have stolen my dreams in my childhood with your empty words.” An alert photographer captured the quintessential “one picture is worth 1000 words,” an image of Greta fixing an oblivious Donald Trump at the United Nations with a look that should have transformed the fat climate denier into a pillar of salt, like Lot’s wife, another Biblical malefactor.


Greta Thunberg is the daughter of an opera singer and an actor.  Her paternal grandfather is both an actor and a director. Her parents support her activism and her father is quoted as saying, “We respect that she wants to make a stand. She can either sit at home and be really unhappy, or protest and be happy.” Greta has published a collection of her speeches on the climate problem and has donated the profits to charity


No one, including those who believe in climate change as it currently is affecting the world, would argue that climate change has not occurred before, since the Earth formed. The Ice Age obviously was a major change in much of the Earth’s climate. And where jungles once flourished, climate change extinguished vegetation to create what today are deserts. If you believe the Bible, Noah and a bunch of animals, built a boat to escape the ravages of a titanic flood, one of the possible results of the climate change that today threatens the future of the planet.


But all of history’s climate changes occurred when there weren’t billions of people exhaling carbon dioxide, billions of motorized vehicles exhausting greenhouse gases, long before rapacious developers stripped millions of acres of rain forest and other leafy vegetation, allowing bare land to heat and contribute to global warming, long before billions of farm raised animals likewise began contributing substantially to the overall effect. All these factors did not exist before man crawled out of the ooze and bought his first SUV.


Even someone allegedly as educated and intelligent as Cal Thomas should be able to weigh all the factors of modern life that contribute to the undeniable evidence that the planet is warming and, instead of dismissing Greta Thunberg as a dumb teenager, should sign on to her agenda and lobby for solutions.  This petite teenager has managed to mobilize an estimated 4 million of her peers worldwide in marches calling for action to reduce carbon emissions far sooner than the adults of the world seem willing to consider.


Being of Irish origin, I was pleased to read an editorial in the Irish Times that that told it like it is. Writer Jo Connell said, “when democracy is under assault, she hints at the emergence of a new kind of power, a convergence of youth, popular protest and irrefutable science.” Estimates are that at least 4 million people worldwide took part in September 27 protests demanding action on climate change. Mayor Bill DiBlasio, of New York City, excused 1.1 million students from class to participate and an estimated quarter of 1 million of them did. Greta Thunberg was among them. “This is the biggest climate strike ever in history and we all should be so proud of ourselves because we have done this together.”


In Berlin an estimated 270,000 people participated and another hundred thousand in London. The first climate strike in March drew an estimated 100,000 people in the United States and 1.4 million people worldwide. Obviously, the word is out and if crowd size is applicable, the climate change deniers are seriously outnumbered.


“You say you hear us and that you understand the urgency, but no matter how sad and angry I am I do not want to believe that,  because if you really understood the situation and still kept on failing to act, then you would be evil, and that I refuse to believe,” Greta said in her UN speech.


I’ve rarely if ever heard a comment with more grace and perspicacity about a situation that threatens, not only the person making the statement, but humanity in general. One person can’t change the world— but one person can mobilize the world to change. If humanity is lucky, that person will be the right one at the right time.


If the climate deniers need any examples that one person can change the world, they exist throughout history. Check the history books (and don’t forget the Bible). Maybe, just maybe, a petite Swedish teenager is the latest addition to the roster of those heroes who fight against the truism once articulated by Pogo Possum, “We have met the enemy…. And he is us.




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1 Comment

  1. CJ

    October 11th, 2019 at 8:24 am


    I love Greta! We just need to get out of the way of young people and let them take over. They give me hope for the future!

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