Greta Thunberg Now Says Climate Activism Not Enough, Society Must 'Change Everything'


Greta Thunberg has made some pretty strong demands for us all over the short time she’s been an activist.

Her latest? “Change everything.”

In an Op-Ed published at Project Syndicate on Friday — filed from Madrid, which is currently hosting the United Nations’ latest climate summit — Thunberg and several other young climate change activists of lesser name value said the current system needed to be dismantled in order to save the environment, although the actual reasons for this remained unclear.

The majority of the spiel was another apologia for the climate strikes. Things are looking dire, young people aren’t going to have a future, it’s time for the adults to listen to the children in the room, yadda yadda yadda, you’ve heard this before.

There is a curious line early on about “millions of people lending their voices — and their bodies — to the cause” (As in like, soldiers? Civil rights protesters? Are these teens facing bullets or firehoses?) but the general tone is the kind of self-hagiography that you’d expect from the climate strike crowd.

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“After a year of strikes, our voices are being heard. We are being invited to speak in the corridors of power,” the piece read.

“At the UN, we addressed a room filled with world leaders. At the World Economic Forum in Davos, we met with prime ministers, presidents, and even the pope. We have spent hundreds of hours participating in panels and speaking with journalists and filmmakers. We have been offered awards for our activism.”

“Our efforts have helped to shift the wider conversation on climate change. People now increasingly discuss the crisis we face, not in whispers or as an afterthought, but publicly and with a sense of urgency,” it continued.

”Polls confirm changing perceptions. One recent survey showed that, in seven of the eight countries included, climate breakdown is considered to be the most important issue facing the world. Another confirmed that schoolchildren have led the way in raising awareness.”

Do you think the United States should sign on to the Paris climate accords?

Tell us how you really feel about you, climate change activists.

So, all right, you have our attention. You’re going to save the world with it. How, exactly, are you going to do it?

”Schoolchildren, young people, and adults all over the world will stand together, demanding that our leaders take action — not because we want them to, but because the science demands it,” the piece said.

“That action must be powerful and wide-ranging. After all, the climate crisis is not just about the environment. It is a crisis of human rights, of justice, and of political will. Colonial, racist, and patriarchal systems of oppression have created and fueled it. We need to dismantle them all. Our political leaders can no longer shirk their responsibilities.”

I’ll attempt to address these points one by one:

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Colonialism could theoretically have contributed to pollution, assuming that colonial powers usurping resources led to irresponsible use, although I don’t believe this is the definition of the word being used here. Instead, this seems to refer to the amorphous, academic use of the word “colonialism” — this is to say, anything which has to do with relations between two parties where there’s an existing imbalance of power and that imbalance is used to the advantage of the stronger party.

As for racism: I’m sure there’s a lengthy, tortuous explanation as to how racism contributed to the “climate crisis.” I’m sure it’s wrong.

Patriarchy? Would women have burned less fossil fuels were they given greater access to power at an earlier date? This is getting further and further from anything to do with the “climate crisis.”

Later on: “We have learned that, if we do not step up, nobody will. So we will keep up a steady drumbeat of strikes, protests, and other actions. We will become louder and louder. We will do whatever it takes to persuade our leaders to unite behind science so clear that even children understand it.”

“Collective action works; we have proved that. But to change everything, we need everyone. Each and every one of us must participate in the climate resistance movement. We cannot just say we care; we must show it.”

And showing it involves upending everything — because of what? And what does “change everything” really mean? To what degree are we supposed to reshape the world in the name our climate? Does this involve dismantling our forms of government? Belief systems?

There are so many questions because there are so many ill-defined terms here.

Take just those two words: “Change everything.” That could just be empty rhetoric — or a call to reshape or tear down entire structures of human governance and social arrangements. If this prospect doesn’t frighten you, it’s because you’re not thinking hard enough about it.

Then again, I would assume this wasn’t written with me in mind.

There’s a different language climate scolds use when talking to people who already believe their rhetoric, as opposed to those who believe that while this extreme, dire view of climate change may be legitimately held, it’s also being used by an activist class to foist as much change onto existing social structures as they can. Get it while the getting’s good, after all.

For the believers, I’m sure there was plenty of nodding along.

Yes, of course climate change is caused by the patriarchy. Colonialist structures of racism need to be addressed to bring those sea levels down. I just can’t believe anyone would deny what’s so patently obvious.

For the rest of us — some of us who even buy into the idea of man-made climate change, although not at the hyper-caffeinated level climate-strikers do — we can only stare at this nonsense, agog. Some of this stuff almost seems calculated to be taken as a joke.

And that’s the problem. For the activists behind this — and I certainly don’t mean the teenagers — it’s anything but a laughing matter. And as long as they’ve got people scared, they have a few other sociopolitical issues they’d like us to tackle, too.

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C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014.
C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014. Aside from politics, he enjoys spending time with his wife, literature (especially British comic novels and modern Japanese lit), indie rock, coffee, Formula One and football (of both American and world varieties).
Morristown, New Jersey
Catholic University of America
Languages Spoken
English, Spanish
Topics of Expertise
American Politics, World Politics, Culture