There’s a reason we don’t let 16-year-olds drive the big rigs. Although many of them might be able to pass the tests required to get the appropriate licenses and most have legs long enough to reach the pedals, we nevertheless don’t permit them to hop behind the wheel of a massive Peterbilt and, to paraphrase C. W. McCall’s 1970’s hit, “Join a great big convoy to cross the USA.”
The reason for this is the same as the reason we set a limit on the age to buy liquor or get tattoos: We presume that children aren’t fully mature and are apt to make poor decisions about consequential things. One might get drunk, go into a tattoo parlor, and come out with a permanent image of something inappropriate on some obvious spot on their anatomy and be stuck with the consequences for life.
So why would we contemplate complying, when 16-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg demands the world spend trillions and alter the life of every single person on Earth?
We should treat all children with patient respect and a child, like Greta, who has been diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome and other psychiatric problems, needs even greater consideration. It’s the adult thing to do. That doesn’t mean, however, that the opinions of children are above criticism.
Indeed, holding a skeptical view of youthful opinions, which can be poorly informed, impulsive, and subject to the whims of popular culture or the child’s peers, is also an adult thing to do. It’s actually a duty. Adults are supposed to guide children away from error and teach them not to accept ideas without skepticism. Your mom surely would have done so, if you said you wanted to jump off the roof with an umbrella parachute because the other kids said it worked just wonderful for Mary Poppins. No responsible mother would say, “Make sure to live stream your jump on Facebook.”
Manipulating Natural Sympathy
Thunberg is an intelligent girl as demonstrated by her excellent command of English. She’s small for her age and fragile in appearance. She looks like a kid to whom you’d be sure to offer a bowl of hot soup and a sweater on a chilly day. When she isn’t hectoring her elders about climate change, she sometimes smiles and her smile is quite endearing. Nearly all children have an easy charm that can elicit a warm response. There’s probably some evolutionary explanation for it—it encourages those who are older to care for and nurture those younger.
That good and natural instinct is being exploited by the climate change activists who are using Thunberg to advance their cause.
Thunberg is useful to climate change activists as a human shield. Anyone challenging what she says about the Earth warming can be attacked as a monster bullying a child. This moves the debate from facts to emotions. Thunberg in this way can be cast as David versus Goliath, Little Red Riding Hood versus the Big Bad Wolf, or Kevin, who was left home alone, versus those bungling burglars.
We like stories about younglings whooping up on baddies against overwhelming odds, and Thunberg’s exploiters find it easy to characterize her as courageous while her targets are mean Ol’ Big Carbon and his lackeys.
Thunberg as Diversion
Thunberg and the young people she rallies also serve as a diversion. Unfortunately for the climate change proponents, Mother Earth hasn’t grown feverish as fast as their preferred computer models predicted. Thunberg and her supporters’ protests draw attention away from this inconvenient truth and generate enthusiasm for the cause when it should be sagging.
Not everyone is so easily diverted, however. To the climate alarmists skeptics must ask, “If your predictions were incorrect, why should we trust you to devise a correct solution? Perhaps your solution is unnecessary, unworkable, or is bound to result in worse consequences than the problem you predict? If you are wrong, the colossal wealth wasted on lowering CO2 won’t be spent on other things that might improve mankind’s condition.”
Thunberg’s exploiters have made her an international celebrity, climaxing her rise with an address at the United Nations climate summit. Prior to it, she met with members of Congress and had a one-on-one with former-President Barack Obama in which she got the ritual fist bump he bestows upon the favored few held worthy of sharing his cool (he reserves bowing for very special people).
Thunberg dutifully scorned a meeting with President Donald Trump deeming him irredeemable and, as shown by the glare she directed at him at the UN, probably deplorable, too. Teen Vogue, a publication aimed at kids Greta’s age, declared that she had “already changed the United States for the better” before she had even set foot in the Big Apple. Her transport to our shores was via a sailing ship after she refused to come by a carbon-spewing jet. Her fans weren’t bothered that the vessel wasn’t a quaint 19th-century clipper ship manned by hearty tars singing sea chanties as they hauled on ropes to lift canvas. Instead it was a high-tech yacht only a millionaire could afford, but no matter. After this theatrical act of virtue signaling, Thunberg joined thousands and thousands of children also eager to scold their elders and signal their virtue in a climate strike to protest climate change.
Sinners in the Hands of an Angry Gaia
Thunberg’s UN speech was similar in tone to one given by a preacher at a tent revival calling on sinners to repent lest they burn, albeit for a new religion that replaces a scorching hot Hell with a scorched Earth.
She angrily insisted that, “People are suffering. People are dying. Entire ecosystems are collapsing. We are at the beginning of a mass extinction, and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you. How dare you continue to look away and come here saying you are doing enough. You say you hear us and 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.”
With the “How dare you”s, Thunberg set herself atop a lofty pedestal buttressed by her assumption that she better understands the “situation” than the majority of Earth’s adult population. Someone should inform her that it is possible to disagree with her without being evil. It is often said that a consensus of scientists believe in man-made climate change, but there are reputable climatologists who believe natural causes are more significant. These climatologists aren’t evil people but climate activists exclaim you should cast them out as blasphemers. If you don’t, you’re a vile “denier” and you don’t care if your great-grandchildren will never be able to make snow angels.
Thunberg’s Seminary is Really a Prop Room
When Thunberg was eight and first heard about climate change, she wondered why no one was fixing it. At 15, she began skipping school to sit in front of Sweden’s Riksdag, the national legislature in Stockholm, handing out leaflets. She announced she would do this till Sweden reduced its carbon emissions in line with the Paris Agreement because “Adults are s****ing on my future.” Worldwide student strikes in answer to Thunberg’s call followed. Her fame grew till it led to her angry UN speech.
Her child followers made their fury explicit during the strikes leading up to the speech although anyone who witnessed those events couldn’t help noticing that adults were in charge, shepherding the children through each step. School districts and colleges cancelled classes so students could attend without the ordinary consequences of truancy. City officials arranged police supervision, closed streets, and allocated other supports. A lot of money went into the proceedings, and it didn’t come out of kids’ piggy banks.
The protesting children, like Thunberg, were useful for the adult advocates of the climate crisis.
Back in the days of Old Hollywood, a stage mother or father might drill a toddler relentlessly in tap dancing or singing while dragging the child to beauty contests, talent shows, or auditions, hoping vicariously to attain their adult ambitions through their child.
Most of these children never made it to the silver screen, perhaps growing up to become stage parents, themselves. Those who did make it didn’t always have a good life. To get a kid to cry on cue, a director might tell the child her puppy had been run over by a car. A child performer might be fed pep pills to keep her singing and dancing for hours on end or to keep them from gaining too much weight. Parents might try to stunt a child actor’s growth to extend his career, and it’s no coincidence that some of the most successful child actors were diminutive or had health problems that kept them childlike beyond their childhood years.
When the child stars reached awkward adolescence and weren’t cute anymore, only a few transitioned into adult roles. The rest were sent packing. Too often, the money they had earned had been misspent by their parents or stolen by unscrupulous managers, leaving them with little to show for a lost childhood. Today, there are some safeguards to protect child actors, but it can still be a hard life. Many, who are now adults, can attest to horror stories of exploitation.
Greta Thunberg fervently believes in what she is doing, but that doesn’t change the fact others are using her. She, too, is a child performer being exploited. Setting aside her fanaticism, she seems like a nice girl who we can hope will have a better life than some of Hollywood’s exploited child stars.
Those who believe in a man-made climate crisis have the right to proclaim their belief and argue for action to address it, but employing children as their champions is ethically questionable. In Greta’s case, it’s also not persuasive.