Decoding the Greta effect

By Bhushan Salunke
The Devil’s Advocate, serving you a cocktail of humour, wit and sarcasm

When Greta Thunberg failed to get her overdue and well-deserved 2019 Nobel Peace Prize, the world was shocked beyond belief. “How dare you not give it to her?”, the world yelled at the Nobel prize selection panel. If she had indeed got it, she would have been the youngest person to have achieved this feat and in the shortest possible time. It has been just about one year since Greta started wagging classes and striking outside her school by holding up placards, until social media discovered her.

For those of you who have just woken up from their comatose status or have been living under the rocks, Greta Thunberg is a 16-year-old teenager who is a rockstar-like celebrity climate change activist, from Sweden, who has embarked on a mission to saving the world from the attack of its very own inhabitants—the humans, i.e. you and I, who are destroying the planet by causing climate change.

The Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to some unknown man by the name of Abiy Ahmed, the Prime Minister of Ethiopia “for his efforts to achieve peace and international cooperation, and in particular for his decisive initiative to resolve the border conflict with neighbouring Eritrea”. Does this guy even have a Facebook page and by the way, where the hell are Ethiopia and Eritrea? This is more evidence that the Noble selection panel is a misogynistic boys’ club. Maybe after the global warming campaign, Greta will hopefully take on the gender equality and its associated gender wage gap issues.

Greta can take some comfort in the fact that our own Mahatma Gandhi was nominated five times for the Nobel Peace Prize but was knocked back each and every time. Though, it must be said that Gandhiji was fighting against just the British empire whereas Greta is taking on the entire human race and hence her scope of work is much bigger.

Thankfully, Time magazine has anointed Greta as the “Time person of the year”, an honour she shares with Adolf Hitler and Stalin. I don’t think Hitler was given the title for his holocaust achievements but for being a vegetarian. Even Hitler, decades ago, knew that vegetarianism would save the world.

The stereotype of a teenager is a person who has a bad attitude, selfish, narcissistic, feels entitled, lazy, addicted to devices and who lives in a virtual world with the head buried in smartphone screen 24×7. This has changed thanks to Greta, after the impassioned speech she gave at the UN conference on climate change in September 2019, though it did have shades of teenager tantrums of slamming the door on the face of parents and screaming, “I hate you”, as teenagers normally do.

Usually, parents are accustomed to giving dressing downs to their teenage kids for staying out late, for doing drugs and sex, for not studying etc. But now, the tables are turned. Teenagers are taking the adults to task for “destroying their dreams and childhood”. This is yet another reason for the voting age to be dropped to 8 years. These kids have wise heads on their young shoulders. They are so worldly and are so knowledgeable, thanks to their school teachers, Google and Siri. I now have a new-found respect for kids/teenagers and often consult them on complex matters.

At such a young age, Greta knows all about the science behind climate change, as much as any qualified climatologist. I must admit that I was not aware that millions of people were “suffering and dying” in Sweden due to global warming and there was a “mass extinction” of species taking place, due to climate change until Greta revealed the statistics in her speech, which has gone down in history as one of the greatest speeches ever made.

Humans are causing climate change. This is a fact because every human breathes out CO2, which causes global warming, but there are a few stupid humans, known as climate change deniers, who refuse to believe in it.

Not all human beings are causing climate change, though. For example, Greta and her followers, school teachers, school children, the “97% scientists”, teenagers, activists, social justice warriors, vegetarians and vegans, the jet-setting Hollywood and Bollywood celebrities, latte-sipping elites, Alan Gore etc make zero contribution to climate change. They do not have blood on their hands.

The real culprits are us adults, just like you and me, who are destroying this planet. We should all hang our heads in shame. I feel so ashamed of living the good life brought about by burning fossil fuels and coal. You should feel ashamed too, for the damage you are causing to the environment. We adults have “stolen our kids’ dreams and childhoods with our empty words” and the teenagers will never “forgive us” for this. Every time I get into my car, switch on my computer, open the refrigerator door, turn on my air-conditioner, I hear Greta’s jarring voice ringing in my ears, “How dare you”?. Do you also hear the same?

I wish we could have giant billboards with a snarling Greta image on it asking “How dare you fly?” outside every airport or “How dare you drive a car?” outside every car showroom and “How dare you eat meat?” outside every butchers’ shop.

My twin kids are great Greta fans. They are always chanting, “Greta said this, Greta said that” all the time. They know all about climate change and who is causing it and they think that it is me. The Aussie kids may have fallen in the PISA ranking (a scale that rates schools in the world) but when it comes to climate change activism, they are second to none. “How dare you, dad?” has become their most favourite expression.

The other day, they came up to me and said, “Dad. Could you please cancel our flight tickets to Disneyland”? I was a bit perplexed and asked, “Don’t you want to go to Disneyland?”. They said, “We do but we don’t want to fly. Greta said not to fly. We want to sail to Disneyland.” I said, “Look guys. Greta has wealthy friends such as Leonardo de Caprio, Obama and Arnie who can lend their million-dollar yachts to her. I don’t have such friends.” Anyway, I’m in the market looking to buy at least a tinny.

Such is the influence that Greta has on my kids and kids all over the world. My kids are now walking to school, have stopped eating beef burgers, have turned vegans and they won’t touch their food if it doesn’t contain broccoli, spinach and brussels sprouts.

One of my kids has torn up the Superman’s poster on his bedroom wall and replaced it with Greta’s. “Greta will save the world, not Superman” he stomped. He wants to follow in Greta’s footsteps. He wants to drop out of school, go on protests and strikes, make speeches and become a career activist. He is showing great promise. I must encourage him. Who knows? He could also end up on the cover of Time magazine.

On a serious note, child and educational psychologist, Andrew Greenfield, says that “eco-anxiety” is a growing problem among young Australians, due to the climate change debate in media and in public. “Climate change is a real issue, but we have to be a little bit more careful in terms of catastrophising all of this,” he said. Experts have voiced concern about the effects on the mental health of children. My kids are convinced that we are all going to die in ten years, because Greta said so.

Women, in general, are in agreement with Greta that humans are causing global warming. In fact, some of them have even decided not to have children in fear of the catastrophic effect climate change would have on their children. But men, such as Donald Trump, Jair Bolsonaro, Andrew Bolt etc are in denial and are getting triggered by Greta’s speeches and calling her all sorts of names such as “brat”, “spoilt” etc.

The Greta “flight-shaming” phenomenon is taking hold. The tourism industry is suffering a downturn, Jetstar pilots are going on strike, Boeing is slashing its plane production, trains and buses are running full, sailing activity has increased and boats are selling much more than cars. “Frequent Flyer” is now the new “F word”.

Greta had a first-hand experience of her very own “Greta effect”, recently. She could not find a seat to sit on, in an overcrowded train, while travelling through Germany and was forced to sit on the floor of the train. People are listening to Greta. They are ditching planes and are travelling on trains instead. The Greta magic is working.

Hoping Greta would visit India and China soon, two of the most polluting countries, to shame, reprimand and rebuke their leaders and its people.

The planet can heave a huge sigh of relief. It is now in Greta’s safe hands.


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