Climate activist Greta Thunberg’s brutal honesty delivers the message the world needs right now. With increasingly severe natural disasters and those in power unable or unwilling to implement reforms that will decarbonize our energy and transportation sectors, we need someone to call out those standing in the way.
A teenage girl with Asperger’s unleashing righteous anger in the global halls of power is the perfect messenger. Her Asperger’s, a mild form of autism characterized by significant difficulties in social interaction and nonverbal communication, serves as a shield for her truth-telling. People who try to attack her for not being neurotypical look like bullies. In Greta’s case, her Asperger’s is actually her superpower. It allows her to say things the rest of us feel we cannot.
Asperger’s is usually seen as a liability but in Greta’s situation it allows her to say things the rest of us feel we cannot. Seen another way, her difficulty reading social cues and responding in socially acceptable ways means she is more likely to say what she is thinking even if it’s not tactful.
As a result of these special qualifies and her dedication to Friday School Strikes, gatekeepers to the halls of power have given her access to address top level decision makers. On September 18, 2019, Greta challenged those in the U.S. Congress who are standing in the way of progress on climate change.
"I don’t want you to listen to me, I want you to listen to the scientists. I want you to unite behind the science and I want you to take real action."
On September 23, 2019, she spoke at the United Nations Climate Action Summit and let loose on global leaders.
"You are failing us. But the young people are starting to understand your betrayal. The eyes of all future generations are upon you. And if you choose to fail us, I say: We will never forgive you.”
Then on October 25, 2019 at a climate strike in Vancouver, Greta reminded the world about another teenager who urged world leaders to address climate change many years ago. Severn Cullis-Suzuki, environmental activist David Suzuki’s daughter, was 12 years old in 1992 when she spoke at the Earth Summit in Rio. Unconcerned with sounding disappointed with people in power, Greta said:
"Severn told the world everything the world needed to know 27 years ago and the science told us, told our world leaders everything they needed to know 27 years ago. If people would have listened back then, the world would be a completely different place than it is today. But the world ignored her, and world leaders continued to choose to look away from this crisis, even today."
Joining Greta on stage in Vancouver, Severn’s presence at the Vancouver rally made abundantly clear that the world cannot let atmospheric levels of CO2 rise for another 27 years.
Greta is the perfect messenger for righteous anger about the world’s failure to act on climate change. She doesn’t talk about solutions, though. Her role is to urge us to act. Now it’s up to the adults in the room to commit to action, find the resources, and implement solutions that match the severity of the problem.