Teen activist garners attention, faces backlash

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Greta Thunberg is a teenage climate activist taking the world by storm. 

The 16-year-old inspired the “School Strikes for Climate” movement in her home country of Sweden in 2018. Since then, the movement has only grown larger and Thunberg has become a larger figure for environmentalism, speaking at multiple climate rallies. 

Thunberg even gave a speech at the U.N. Climate Action Summit held in New York on Sept. 23 of this year. The teenager doesn’t back down in this intense speech, her anger and disappointment at the political figures obvious in how she speaks. 

“This is all wrong. I shouldn’t be up here. I should be back in school on the other side of the ocean yet you all come to us young people for hope. How dare you?” Thunberg said in front of a group of political figures. 

Thunberg’s speech has gained traction online and plunged her in the spotlight. More people are beginning to talk about the serious issues of climate change.

However, Thunberg’s effort to raise awareness of climate change activism has resulted in a harsher focus on Thunberg herself. 

Thunberg is receiving too much pressure for somebody her age — from both those who support her and hate her. 

Thunberg is being attacked on social media by those who don’t believe climate change is real. These individuals have gone so far as to hurl death threats at Thunberg.

Climate change deniers don’t seem to care that she’s a minor. Twitter user @ShefVaidya, an author who often writes about politics, even goes as far as to say “@GretaThunberg is a public figure. Out of her OWN choice. My children are NOT. Do you see the difference? No? I thought so. That would require brains.” 

Many are trying to discredit her work by spreading ridiculous rumors or creating doctured images. One of the most ridiculous of these claims is that Thunberg is somehow affiliated with George Soros, a rumor spread so far that the fact checking website Snopes had to debunk it. 

Thunberg has even been attacked by political figures, including President Trump. Trump retweeted one of his supporters, @Opinion8dKellie, who posted a clip of her U.N. Summit speech and proceeded to call Thunberg an “actress” on Oct. 3. Trump commented with “Keep up the great work, Kellie!”

Maxime Bernier, Canadian politician who created the conservative federal political party The People’s Party of Canada, said that Thunberg is “clearly mentally unstable. Not only autistic, but obsessive-compulsive, eating disorder, depression and lethargy, and she lives in a constant state of fear,” two days after she discussed her Asperger’s syndrome. 

Thunberg has taken all of this in stride, saying on Swedish talk show Skavlan “It’s of course annoying that people spend their time doing things like this when they could be doing something useful instead, but there will always be people who find something to complain about.”

While the existence of internet trolls and climate deniers is unfortunately no longer surprising to many of us, it is still shocking to see so many people attack a young girl for trying to make a change. 

Thunberg shouldn’t have to make statements about online bullies at all. Instead of listening to her words, adults began to hurl hatred at her, only further demonstrating exactly what Thunberg meant when she said “You are failing us. But the young people are starting to understand your betrayal.”

Of course, there are people who support Thunberg’s views as well but some take that support too far and miss the main message of her speech entirely.

There are people who believe Thunberg should become a political figure herself, hailing her as a savior for all their environmental concerns.

The responsibility of climate change shouldn’t lie directly on Thunberg, but on the adults in her life who can make a greater difference. Adults have better means to create a greater change for the world, but leave the actual work to the teenage girl.

It’s important to listen, not only to Thunberg but to other activists and young people who want to change to happen. Listening isn’t the only thing we should do though — we have to act as well. 

We need to remember Thunberg’s words at the U.N. speech, understand we are failing young children when we either expect them to fix global issues on their own or silence them when they speak out, and ask ourselves “How dare we?” 

The negligence of adults will create further issues for the children of Thunberg’s generation and for generations to come.