In a little over a year, a 16-year-old Swedish girl has achieved superstardom and has affected the lives of millions. But, she didn’t do it through pop songs or viral videos. She rose to prominence using her passion for climate change and dedicated political advocacy.
Greta Thunberg, on September 20th and the entire following week, led the world’s largest climate strike in history, with 7 million people from 161 countries taking to the streets to protest governments and their lack of action towards the climate crisis. On September 23rd, she addressed the United Nations with a thundering speech that left a tremendous emotional impact on members of the UN, blaming them for having “stolen [her] dreams and [her] childhood through [their] empty words.” President Trump, who was not in attendance for her speech but did happen to cross paths with her, was pictured receiving a scolding look from Thunberg. This doesn’t come as a surprise, as President Trump is known as a believer of the “fairytales of eternal economic growth” that Thunberg mentions in her speech. The image, along with the speech and its emotional fury have become internet sensations and the subject of articles, blog posts, and memes.
Now, I know this may come as a hot-take of sorts, but I have no reason to disagree with the mockery of such a display. Sometimes, political opinions need to receive humorous backlash in order to gain traction and mass appeal. Thunberg’s anger and passion throughout her speech were met with both acclaim and disgust, as political television pundits and politicians either praised her enthusiasm or disapproved of her attitude. Even President Trump went ahead to tilt her, as can be seen in the tweet below:
She must have known that, along with her growing amount of supporters, there would be an increasing amount of disdain and opposition. Even her tweets seem to isolate climate change activists from anyone on the sidelines, and they in turn incite her counterparts to attack her.
Anna Freiman, a junior at Scheck Hillel, said that, “Ridicule, whether playful or not, is an inevitable consequence of being in the spotlight.” Greta exemplifies this perfectly. But, as I’ve pointed out, Anna agrees that “in many cases, it is a necessary means [for] raising awareness.”
All of this – the memes, criticisms, and attacks – should be seen as an absolute win. The world is increasingly growing online, and for Thunberg to achieve her final goal of ending global emissions, a speech in a closed room (with a lot, but not nearly enough media coverage) would not impact billions.
I did not know who she was until I saw a repost from one of my friends on Instagram. Many people I know didn’t know who she was until they saw a meme of her on their Reddit pages or on their Snapchat stories. Without all of this exposure, Greta Thunberg’s reach would be a lot smaller, and her Fridays for Future movement (a student-led school strike every Friday) would not have the attention it deserves.
Many have said that it is beyond inappropriate for the POTUS to intimidate and insult a teenage girl acting on her right to expression. There is no denying that. Yet, him going out of his way to address this teenage advocate should be seen as an accomplishment, rather than a setback, for the movement. Modern problems require modern solutions, and Greta Thunberg is doing it right.