Top of the Month: Teenage activist Greta Thunberg shows the adults how to deliver a message

Climate change is the greatest existential threat modern humanity has ever faced and yet one which highlights the inability of governments to grasp the nettle on the most difficult issues.

Greta Thunberg addresses the Parliamentary Climate Change Group meeting last week, including Michael Gove and Ed Miliband (pic credit: Leon Neal/Getty Images)
Greta Thunberg addresses the Parliamentary Climate Change Group meeting last week, including Michael Gove and Ed Miliband (pic credit: Leon Neal/Getty Images)

Against the backdrop of April’s ‘Extinction Rebellion’ protests in London, in which campaigners called on governments to "tell the truth" about the gravity of the situation, enter Greta Thunberg – a teenager from Sweden – who set out to do just that.

Thunberg first came to prominence last August after she staged a "School Strike for Climate" in front of the Swedish Parliament.

She gained further attention after speaking at the UN Climate Talks in Poland last December and her weekly school strike has inspired thousands of other young people, from Germany to Australia, to carry out similar protests, culminating in a global school strike in March.

Thunberg dismissed Theresa May’s criticism that the strikes were wasting valuable lesson time, responding – by Twitter, natch – that politicians had wasted the last 30 years to take meaningful action.

Naturally, she was invited to address the crowds who gathered for the Extinction Rebellion protests over the Easter holiday.

And Thunberg’s speech to MPs last week, in which she bluntly accused them of talking a good game on the subject while doing nothing (sound familiar?) earned her the opprobrium of several right-wing commentators, including Toby Young and Julia Hartley-Brewer – and a place in everyone else’s consciousness.

Setting aside the fact that Thunberg, age 16, has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize and that English is her second language; she is also diagnosed with Aspergers, a form of autism characterised by difficulties with social interaction and decoding non-verbal cues.

Hartley-Brewer was quick to seize on this fact, accusing climate protesters of manipulating the teenager for their own ends but Thunberg regards her condition as a strength, enabling her to "see things from outside the box".

During her speech to MPs last week, Thunberg repeatedly asked them: "Did you hear what I just said? Is my English OK? Is the microphone on? Because I’m beginning to wonder."

Perhaps not, but the rest of us hear you loud and clear.

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