Premium

Greta Thunberg may be annoying, but at least she isn't a hypocrite

Climate change activist Greta Thunberg addresses the media during a press conference in Plymouth, England, Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2019. The 16-year-old climate change activist who has inspired student protests around the world will leave Plymouth, England, bound for New York in a high-tech but low-comfort sailboat.(AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth) 
Greta Thunberg addresses the media during a press conference in Plymouth, England, Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2019.  Credit: Kirsty Wigglesworth /AP

For all her youthful zeal Thunberg is at the coal-face, valiantly attempting to do her bit

Personally I blame the pigtail. Set against today's pouty teenagers who preen on Instagram and worship at the altar of Love Island, Greta Thunberg's worthiness, her earnest expression and unflinching delivery are a little hard to place.

But is the absolutism, the zeal and purity of her message really worthy of the opprobrium currently being heaped on the 16 year-old activist?

Would you want to spend two weeks travelling across the North Atlantic – as she is currently doing – on a boat with no toilets, kitchens or privacy in order to avoid a flight to New York? Me neither.

Yet rather than seeing this unreconstructed – naïve? – approach for what it is, the brickbats continue to fly. Not least from Arron Banks who, in a sinister tweet of breathtaking malevolence, warned the teenager that “freak yachting accidents do happen in August”.

Is this kind of sickening banter the best the controversial Brexit-backer could do? Or was Banks just having a bit of fun on social media as he waited for the trolley service to open in first class?

Look, I'm the first to admit that there is something – sorry – annoying about Thunberg who has just embarked on a solar powered, zero carbon voyage so that she can attend a crucial climate change conference in New York. And who told the BBC that travelling by boat sends a signal that "the climate change crisis is a real thing".

The Heidi couture is infuriating, the humorless Scandinavian delivery a little maddening. And of course there's a part of me which raises a sardonic eyebrow at the "children are our future" Disney-style message.

But, for all her youthful zeal Thunberg is at the coal-face, valiantly attempting to do her bit. Unlike the virtue-signalling Team Sussex, who pontificate endlessly about climate change yet reportedly took a private jet for the Duchess's birthday trip to Ibiza. (The plane was said to have created some seven times more CO2 per person than any of the commercial flights scheduled from London to Ibiza.)

And give me Greta Thunberg over a smug Emma Thompson who, after flying 5,400 miles from Los Angeles to London to join Extinction Rebellion, offered “it’s very difficult to do my job without occasionally flying” as lame mitigation.

Tell that to Thunberg as she drifts across the Atlantic in a boat powered entirely by wind turbines and solar panels, meaning the journey has a zero carbon footprint.

If we are to point the finger of blame for Greta Thunberg's apparent ubiquity, then what about the so-called grown-ups who facilitate her cause? Her mascot status is powered by teams of adults who recognise the value of placing her at the centre of the debate. It is their manipulation, not Thunberg's, that should be open to question.

I hope Thunberg and her pigtail have an easy journey. And that those who level their facile criticism hang their heads in shame when she safely arrives in New York. The planet will be a little less soiled and our humanity a little cleaner for her efforts.