[ Asok Pillai ]
“We are in the beginning of a mass extinction, and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you!”
– Greta Thunberg
History is dotted with names of individuals who have either altered its course or left their mark on it by way of a single act, good or evil.
It follows that the emergence of such an individual in public consciousness is a revelation of that person’s strength of character… and their actions will reveal which side they are on, unmask their true colours.
Greta Thunberg is one such person. She is acting on the side of good and defiantly so. Thunberg is diagnosed with Asperger syndrome, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and selective mutism, just the qualities required in someone who is doing the right thing in a crazy world. She will not take no for an answer, and her generation is (by default) the stronger for it.
Climate change is more than a looming threat now; it’s a clear and present danger. Greta Thunberg says that the current generation of adults is responsible for the climate change and the subsequently probable mass extinction, and who can argue with her over that? We push policies to save peoples and the old ways of life, all the while choking the planet itself to death with one hand.
American economist, Richard H Thaler, won the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences in 2017 for his ‘Nudge theory’. By definition, ‘nudge is a concept of behavioral science which proposes positive reinforcement and indirect suggestions as ways to influence the behaviour and decision making of groups or individuals’ (Wikipedia).
As we can see, Greta Thunberg is not nudging, that’s for sure. She’s slamming it home, and she actually deserves the Nobel Prize for fighting for a better tomorrow for humankind. We overestimate the value of the world we’ll be leaving behind for our children. We worry about global warming and its causes while bringing down forests and doing every little thing we can to make our lives easier, even as the only home we have as a species suffers.
Deny it if you would, but most of us are hypocrites when it comes to conservation. We make a song and dance about climate change, driving about in our cars and entirely missing the true import of Thunberg’s protest in 2018, standing alone outside the Swedish parliament, holding a cardboard sign reading ‘School strike for the climate’. They are a shallow lot who are more concerned about Thunberg’s education than the danger we have become to Earth. Someday in the future, adults like you and I will be held accountable, perhaps in absentia, for our pretentious approach to our biggest responsibility. The consequences of our actions will haunt our children and our children’s children.
People discuss the greenhouse effect at cocktail parties and even believe the lie we feed ourselves about being oh-so upset about pollution and the melting ice caps and forest fires and do absolutely zilch in our personal capacities to stop the degradation of the ecosystem that’s occurring right before our eyes. We ponder the vastness of the undertaking of a girl who is telling us that climate change is killing the planet; we sense the onus that is on us to heal the world; we write pointless articles like this; and then we go on being the prigs that we are, freezing out our moral culpability underneath the veneer of false sophistication.
Truth be told, in this twisted world it is wiser to get along than to point out the cracks in people’s rationale. But that’s exactly what Greta Thunberg is doing: showing us the mirror. She embodies a subculture of post-Millennials disenchanted by our blind pursuit of materialism. She will not embrace the trappings of establishment, and she presumes to express in words what is whispered in her heart.
Upon careful consideration, what has now come to be known as the ‘Greta effect’ sparks a subtle question in the back of one’s mind: How does it feel to be educated by a 17-year-old school kid on a sabbatical?
And that’s all. Fifteen minutes from now, we’ll shake off that uneasy feeling and resume doing what we do all over again.