Considering the climate activist on stage
By Matthew Fraser, Editor in Chief
If the lead climate activist were truly serious, failures like the Pemex inferno would have taken centre stage in her speech.
Greta Thunberg has become the face and image of climate change. For some people, Thunberg has become akin to a messianic figure in the fight for climate justice and progress towards a greener future. But at the same time that her face has been the mainstay of climate activist T-shirts, the activist herself has done little if anything to motivate the people towards actually addressing the real problems that face the world.
It is undeniable that Thunberg motivates people to do something; clearly, her small frame elicits a core response in some listeners that propels them to feelings of rage or consternation, but what is it exactly that Thunberg says? From her position as the premier climate activist, what is it that she directs the people to do? In the case of her most recent speech at the Youth4Climate on September 28, the answer is clear: absolutely nothing. In her efforts to castigate politicians and push failure onto the ruling class—failure they are clearly guilty of—Thunberg neglects to direct the people towards a real solution or highlight where people’s justifiable rage should best be directed.
Take for example the underwater inferno caused by a leaky Pemex pipe off of the coast of Mexico. Thunberg’s speech makes no mention of the July event and she resolutely refuses to direct the rage of the people at the failings of the Mexican government to hold someone responsible. As a matter of fact, Pemex experienced such lax media coverage and prolonged outrage that barely a month and a half later, another oil leak at one of their offshore drilling stations resulted in a fire that killed five workers. The media coverage of this fire was virtually non-existent despite its proximity in both time and area to the other disastrous leak. If the lead climate activist were truly serious, failures like this would have taken centre stage in her speech.
But failures of this clear and obvious magnitude were not part of Thunberg’s’ speech. Instead, the most viral part of her speech came from her saying “blah blah blah.” The same empty rhetoric she rages against is the same empty rhetoric she delivers. Nothing of substance to encourage the “hopes and dreams” of the youth. Nothing of substance to direct the lack of a planet B to the actions needed to protect Planet Only. Not even a nod to the continued destruction wrought by rampant consumerism. No, Thunberg would rather snidely quote Joe Biden and Boris Johnson rather than direct the people to the actual and demonstratable failures of these and other world leaders.
Maybe the worst aspect of Greta Thunberg’s leadership is the complete vapidness of both her rage and her audience. Though it is undeniably a good thing that people are being alerted to climate destruction, the fact that their alert state begins and ends with a short and largely performative speech; that their alert state only results in meagre paper sign-waving in between shopping trips; that their climate activism is confined to a few reposts and much self back slapping is indicative of why the “blah blah” Thunberg detests continues to exist. If the population is not mobilized to confront the failures of the ruling class, then lip service is completely sufficient to keep the status quo moving along.
But all of this bellyaching is largely unimportant; only two weeks after the speech was delivered, it’s already forgotten. Maybe the content of the speech is irrelevant when the topic itself is at best a fad. I guess even this will fade away like so much “blah blah blah.”