Swedish climate change activist Greta Thunberg has hit back after being called the “deeply disturbed messiah of the global warming movement” in an Australian newspaper column.
The 16-year-old says what disturbs her is children being attacked for acting on the science of climate change.
Here’s the background of how Ms Thunberg came to prominence and why some haven’t welcomed her message.
For many students, Thunberg is the voice of a generation
Last August, when she was still 15, Ms Thunberg protested outside the Swedish Parliament with a sign reading “school strike for climate”.
It quickly inspired a global movement, with thousands of Australian students similarly skipping school to demand climate change action in November and again in March.
Over the past year, Ms Thunberg has taken her message, calling out what she sees as a lack of necessary action on climate change, to the World Economic Forum in Davos; the EU Parliament in Strasbourg; and the National Assembly in Paris.
“This ongoing irresponsible behaviour will no doubt be remembered in history as one of the greatest failures of humankind,” she told British MPs in April.
In February, she wrote on Facebook that she agreed that she was too young to be doing all this, but that she felt she had to.
“If everyone listened to the scientists and the facts that I constantly refer to, then no one would have to listen to me or any of the other hundreds of thousands of school children on strike for the climate across the world,” she wrote.
Then, a column labelled her the ‘priestess of the cult’
In a Herald Sun article, writer Andrew Bolt questioned why so many adults had taken to Ms Thunberg’s message of doom.
“I have never seen a girl so young and with so many mental disorders treated by so many adults as a guru,” he wrote.
Bolt was responding to the news that Ms Thunberg would travel to a UN climate action summit in the US via a racing yacht that uses renewable energy.
His column ran under a subhead that said “cynical adults are taking advantage of Greta Thunberg’s fragile state to spread fear”.
Ms Thunberg hit back on Twitter
This is what she said:
I am indeed ”deeply disturbed” about the fact that these hate and conspiracy campaigns are allowed to go on and on and on just because we children communicate and act on the science. Where are the adults? pic.twitter.com/xDSlN0VgtZ
— Greta Thunberg (@GretaThunberg) August 1, 2019
The post got over 100,000 likes and prompted hundreds to tweet out in support.
In her Twitter profile, Ms Thunberg calls herself a “climate activist with Asperger”, and has previously spoken about how the form of autism has been a “gift”.
“It makes me see things from outside the box. I don’t easily fall for lies, I can see through things,” she told BBC Radio 4 earlier this year.
She has also reportedly been diagnosed with obsessive compulsive disorder and selective mutism, and has spoken about having depression when she was younger (something she says climate change inaction had contributed to).
Bolt isn’t the only one who has questioned Ms Thunberg’s activism.
In May, former Howard government minister Amanda Vanstone, on her Radio National show Counterpoint, said she was opposed to the use of children in political debates.
She asked whether Ms Thunberg was being taken advantage of, and said children were being used to deflect criticism.
“When you put a kid there, that’s exactly what you do: you give them a completely free run because nobody with any sense of decency wants to fight with a kid on an adult level,” she said.
Her guest Brendan O’Neill, the editor of Spiked Online, argued similarly.
“We’ve really seen that with Greta Thunberg because anyone who raises criticisms either of her or the politics which she’s representing … can find themselves being called anti-Greta, a child hater, someone who doesn’t take young people seriously,” he said.
In a column on his website, O’Neil wrote that what the “green cult” had done to Ms Thunberg was unforgivable.
“They have pumped her – and millions of other children – with the politics of fear. They have convinced the next generation that the planet is on the cusp of doom. They have injected dread into the youth,” he wrote.
Ms Thunberg has previously said that while she had worked with other climate change activists, she was “absolutely independent” and represented only herself.
She also said she hadn’t been pressured by her parents to campaign about climate change, saying they were “as far from climate activists as possible before I made them aware of the situation”.