Monday, August 26, 2019

Greta's Critics and "Friends"

Environmental & Science Education
STEM
Climate Change
Sustainability
Edward Hessler

Julian Baggani (for The Guardian) makes some important observations about the attackers and lionizers of teen age climate activist Greta Thunberg AND what Ms. Thunberg has to say about her campaign.

With respect to those who attack her (some comments have been incredibly personal and vicious), he writes "You wonder about the psychological motivations of those who have set upon Thunberg so thuggishly. It looks like a kind of displacement activity rooted in fear that what she says might be true. Instead of engaging with the argument they wrestle with the arguer. ... Getting personal is a sure sign you're losing the argument...."

Baggani notes that on the other hand, "Making a young and idealistic teenager the figure head of a movement makes it too easy to dismiss the campaign as a whole as naive and idealistic. Indeed, the commentator Christopher Caldwell, who is supportive of the cause, worries that rallying around Thunberg reflects a refusal to engage with complexity. 'People have had enough of balance and perspective.... They want single-minded devotion to the task at hand.' That is exactly what Thunberg has come to represent."

An illustration: A theoretical physicist devoted a blog post to Greta's idealism and policy prescriptions and a response to it from none other than Bill Nye, the Science Guy. By the way, the responses are very much an important part of the post. They may make you think and wonder, perhaps even laugh and cry! 

I think David Runciman, a Professor of Politics at Cambridge University, UK puts his finger on an important complexity very few of us think about. Thunberg, he writes, showcases "the profound gulf between younger and older generations when it comes to climate politics: the clash between those with the power to act and those who must live with the consequences if they don’t. The climate crisis is an issue that requires long-term thinking across the generations, yet electoral politics is geared toward responding to immediate grievances. Politicians can talk about taking the long view, but without institutional changes to the way we practice democracy, they are unlikely to look beyond short-term political gains."  Runciman discusses some ways to bridge the generational divide but are any of them likely to work? 

And finally and importantly what does the main player, Greta Thunberg, have to say about her motivations and campaign."On this," Baggani writes, "she and her fellow campaigners have been more clear-sighted that their adult fans. Before heading to the UN she said of leaders such as Trump that 'instead of speaking to me and the school-striking children and teenagers they should be talking to actual scientists and experts in this area.' ... 'I think there is a lot of focus on me as an individual and not on the climate itself. I think we should focus more on the climate issue because this is not about me.'"

Baggini closes his column in ringing words of endorsement for Greta Thunberg as well as commenting on his very limited contributions--some words of personal humility. He writes that "She has done infinitely more in a few short years to improve humanity's prospects than I have done or will do in a lifetime. Lionising her doesn't help the cause. But the excessive zealotry of some of her supporters is a trifling fault compared to the egregious attacks by critics who would rather take her on than the inconvenient truths she brings."

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