Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old Swedish student, raised awareness about climate change on Sept. 23, at the United Nations. She condemned world leaders of their inaction towards climate change.
Sadly, Thunberg became a target of ad-hominem attacks online from both news outlets and world leaders, from Daily Wire reporter Michael Knowles calling her a “mentally ill Swedish child” to Russian President Vladimir Putin labeling her as “poorly informed teenager.”
Far-right politician Maxime Bernier of the People’s Party of Canada called Thunberg, in a tweet, “mentally unstable.”
“Not only autistic, but obsessive compulsive, eating disorder, depression and lethargy, and she lives in a constant state of fear,” Bernier tweeted.
These disgusting ad hominem attacks towards the young activist, especially towards her mental disabilities infuriate me, a student with disabilities. It’s because of her age and her mental disability that grown adults feel that she isn’t credible to bring up the conversation of climate change.
The same “baby boomer” generation that complained about Millennials not having enough sensibilities would argue that we are misguided for speaking on political issues they don’t agree with.
They directed their attacks towards survivors of the Parkland shooting for demanding our politicians to act on gun control. Now their new target is the 16-year-old Swedish girl calling out our world leaders for refusing to act on climate change.
UNO Political Science professor Elizabeth Chalecki, Ph.D., who specializes in environmental security, says news outlets and politicians view Thunberg as a threat.
“The fact that news outlets have to question her credibility to speak on this topic, I think it’s fascinating,” Chalecki said. “They must view people as possibly receptive to her message, which they don’t want folks to hear.”
Chalecki said the online and verbal attacks from news outlets and politicians shows that they are afraid of what Thunberg is saying.
“That, to me, makes me want to look at it,” Chalecki said.
Chalecki said that the future generation can rightfully blame the actions of the past generation – who are the head of businesses and in Congress – because of their decisions that affect the environment, including the use of fossil fuel and politicians not following the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. She listed then Senator Chuck Hagel as one of the politicians involved.
“They’re the ones who have basically decided that the environment is a Democratic issue,” Chalecki said. “Consequently, Republicans not only don’t have to engage with it, but they should stop any environmental progress.”
We’ll see people shifting industries, trade flows will go a different direction and there will be food shortages, all because they had a chance to turn it around 30 years ago and didn’t, Chalecki said.
“I can see why Greta and her generation are angry about this because the past generation had a change this and they didn’t,” Chalecki said.
Student government candidate of the Sustainability Committee Chair Sydney Rogers-Morrell said future generations should make changes for themselves or will be forced to do so.
“If we don’t change how much we’re wasting or reduce how much we’re producing, we will continue to see the effects we are already seeing in a much broader scale,” Rogers-Morrell said.
Rogers-Morrell said the future of the environment shouldn’t be partisan because we all want to be here in 50 years.
“We want to be able to have kids and know that they will have a good future,” Rogers-Morrell said. “I think we need to show people that it’s not needed to be divisive, and that we need to make a change.”
Chalecki said the only availing pressure to corporate money is the voices of students demanding the future. They should be criticizing elected officials, asking questions about their policies, registering to vote and voting for pro-environment politicians, Republican or Democrat, Chalecki said.
No matter what party students identify with, we all need to come together to throw aside our differences and demand that our representatives listen to us. The future of the environment affects us all, and the fact that our representatives are unconcerned about it should anger you.
Chalecki said the only way we can rebuke the notion that environmental issues are only for Democrats is to have Republican student voters demand that their politicians respond to the issue.
“Climate change isn’t going to offend just the Democrats. It’s going to affect everybody,” Chalecki said. “We need to have two parties competing to see who’s greener.”
Even though we demand changes from big corporations, we can also make a difference as individuals. Rogers-Morrell shared how her decision to use reusable straws influenced her friends to follow suit.
“While a big part of it has been somewhat a joke like ‘oh plastic straws,’ people are having those conversations now, and that’s a big thing students can do,” Rogers-Morrell said.
Bring those conversations up, question where your recycling is going, question why you’re wasting so much food, because then you can start making the changes and have a butterfly effect on everyone around you, Rogers-Morrell said.
Chalecki said students shouldn’t be too enticed with party labels like Democrat and Republican because they change meaning with time.
Look at what politicians have done by going to legislative score card sites like League of Conservation Voters to see what actions they have taken to address climate change, Chalecki said. Students can also raise concerns by calling their local representative to ask what they are doing to address climate change and why changes aren’t being made now. An action as simple as setting the goal to lower the carbon monoxide levels little by little each year can make a difference.
“Ask Mayor Stothert that. Ask Governor Ricketts that,” Chalecki said. “Why are we waiting?”