Greta Thunberg perceived as a “fabulous green activist” or a dangerous “hysteric” in the United States

5 min

Greta Thunberg, the Swedish teenage girl in the fight against global warming, arrives in New York aboard a zero carbon sailboat. An epic that lasted almost two weeks but did not make headlines in the US press.

Sweden’s Greta Thunberg on her departure for New York on 14 August in Plymouth, England ¬© AFP / Ben STANSALL

Greta Thunberg arrived this Wednesday, August 28 in New York. She will attend the UN Climate Action Summit in New York on September 23rd. According to our information, she also planned to demonstrate Friday with New York high school students in front of a school, as it has already been done in Europe.

The 16-year-old Swede refused to travel by plane and pledged to cross the Atlantic aboard the Malizia II, an 18-meter-long sailboat equipped with solar panels and underwater turbines to generate electricity, which feeds the navigation instruments, the autopilot, the desalinators and a laboratory to test the CO2 level of the waters. She is accompanied by Pierre Casiraghi, son of Princess Caroline of Monaco, and Boris Herrmann, German skipper. The teenager celebrated on August 20, aboard the sailboat, a year of “Strike for the climate”.

At the start of the school year 2018, then in the last class of college, Greta Thunberg had decided to skip school every Friday and settle in front of the Parliament in Stockholm to sensitise the deputies to the climate emergency. Her actions, quickly relayed by social networks and the media, has inspired thousands of young people around the world and gave birth to the movement “Fridays for future”.

Thunberg waves to supporters in New York

Greta, “the invisible girl” who makes us feel guilty

For the New York Times, Greta is simply “an invisible girl who turned militant”. In an article published last February, the journalist Somini Sengupta insists especially on the psychological characteristics of the school girl, on her past depression, her anorexia, etc. Little information on her fight, finally. The article is titled “Becoming Greta. Invisible girl to global climate activist, with bumps along the way”.

Later, in August, writer Kate Cohen, in a column published in The Washington Post, writes “As much as I admire the coherence of Greta Thunberg, so much I will not criticise the climate activists who live in luxurious homes or conferences with private planes, their speeches will shape the contours of a new generation‚Ķ Greta Thunberg makes us all feel guilty.”

Would Greta have an anti-democratic rhetoric?

In an article published in The New York Times on August 2, 2019, European policy expert Christopher Caldwell believes that “Greta Thunberg’s radical approach goes against democracy”. Nothing less.

“Normally, Miss Thunberg should not be qualified to debate in a democratic forum, a 16-year-old teenager is not an adult, she can not be strongly criticised and, even if we forget her autism, Miss Thunberg is a complicated teenager.”

The author continues: “Children of her age have not seen much of life”.

Sentences that furiously echo the contemptuous remarks of several French deputies, who had refused to attend the conference that Greta Thunberg had given to the National Assembly in Paris last July. Their arguments were that with their experience and their background, they were not going to “listen to the lessons of a school girl who would do better studying”. Some call her “apocalyptic guru” or “prophetess in shorts”.

For the conservatives, a “pawn” used by interests that go beyond her understanding

On the conservative political website The American spectator, Greta Thunberg is seen as “a pawn” used by “hysterics of global warming”. These “hysterics who are still waiting to be recognized, while they have been fighting for decades”.

The article title is “Child exploitation”.

Greta Thunberg aboard the Malizia II. Greta Thunberg Media Handout/EPA

“Fabulous”, “smart” for audiovisual media

That said, the audiovisual media like CBS or the public radio NPR are more interested in Greta Thunberg’s trip. In fact, several microphones were on site when she arrived on Wednesday to collect her first impressions.

Even before her arrival, the morning editions of CBS reported Wednesday her epic. They especially detailed the personality and the fight of the young woman, as to try to make it known. Because in the United States, the Friday strike was attended by middle and high school students, but Greta Thunberg is not as famous as in Europe. As proof, this title from CBS:

“An environmental activist crossing the Atlantic to warn of global warming will arrive in New York.”

CNN, for its part, posted an article on her arrival on the “Travel” pages of the channel website.

On NBC’s New York local channel, she is described as “fabulous and extraordinary”, and “smart” by the news anchor, who recalls that she is a “source of inspiration for many young people in Europe” and “maybe now in the United States”.

Prior to the UN summit on September 23, Greta Thunberg, who took a sabbatical year, will attend many climate meetings. She also plans to travel to Canada, Mexico and Chile for another UN conference in December.

We also wonder what she thinks of Iceberg hunters making money out of pure water in Canada…

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