In the wake of Greta Thunberg's recent passionate speech about climate change before the United Nations, someone I know shared the following quote from Lawrence Reed:
"The people who have terrified this child with apocalyptic visions of planetary annihilation should be ashamed. You can see the fear, the hate, and the contemptuousness in her voice and her expressions. She reminds me of the teenage Maoists during China's Cultural Revolution; they too were absolutely certain they were right and were happy to torture you if you thought they weren't. Tragic. Any movement that uses children like this, that expects the rest of us to regard her as some sort of expert, deserves only our everlasting scorn." (Lawrence Reed, 09/23/2019)
Reed's comments understandably launched a flurry of differing opinions from both sides of the climate debate; most of their arguments were equally as impassioned as Thunberg's. However, what bothered me the most was that most people completely ignored Reed's main point; the issue is not whether you agree with Thunberg, or whether you believe that climate change is real. The slippery precipice upon which many people who promoted and applauded Thunberg's speech now find themselves is that they are exploiting a child to sell their agenda - and that is a terrible thing to do.
I weighed in on one of the ensuing debates, and I would like to paraphrase some of my thoughts for posterity.
We should all take climate change very seriously. And even if that wasn't an issue, the amount of toxic waste that humanity collectively dumps all over this planet should be taken even more seriously. Nevertheless, regardless of Greta Thunberg's motivations, the statement from Lawrence Reed should also be taken with the utmost of seriousness; any cause that exploits children to garner support for its message is immoral. It does not matter whether Thunberg is well-read and passionate about the subjects that she is discussing; at the end of the day, she is not a scientific expert on these matters, (though I am certain that she will be in the future). But for now, those who stand behind Thunberg are using her passion to promote their agenda, and when any segment of society uses children in that fashion, their message is degraded. Regardless of the morality of the underlying cause, exploiting children to endorse your message is immoral.
In Thunberg's speech, she accused politicians of ignoring long-term climate issues in order to profit from short-term financial gains, and I would agree with that assertion. And lest there be any mistake, greedy politicians aren't just an American problem; they are a global problem. That being said, I think anyone who thinks that climate change isn't real is not paying attention, and anyone who thinks that humanity isn't impacting the environment is burying their head in the sand.
However, science has shown us that our planet is pretty resilient; the climate has swung much further in both the warming and cooling directions over the course of its history; regardless of what happens to the climate now, the planet's ecosystems will recover from our climate stupidity in future centuries. My greater concern is that we're polluting the planet so badly that even if the climate recovers, the planet will be too toxic for anything to live on it. In that respect, climate change is only part of the problem - not the entire problem. (See Arnold Schwarzenegger's epic rant about climate change for more.)
While climate change is very real, I often see the "97% of climate scientists agree" comment thrown about during debates. Unfortunately, that is a made up statistic that everyone keeps quoting, and I really wish people would stop using it. Like many urban legends, the 97% figure is a self-perpetuating fabrication that refuses to die. You can read articles like 97% Of Climate Scientists Agree Is 100% Wrong for just one example on how some people erroneously invented and promoted that mythical number, and there are many more papers that have similarly refuted it. Here's the thing - if we want people to believe that climate change is real, we need to stop repeating garbage statistics, because all that does is reinforce the opposition's mistaken impression that everything else we say about climate change is equally bogus.
Circling back to Lawrence Reed's original point, I do not believe that Thunberg is being "forced" to do anything, but she's being "used." Many of the heinously awful movements throughout history have used children as their spokespersons, because putting a face to your message that can foster sympathy for your cause is a good marketing tactic. But it's still wrong. Thunberg is too young and naive to realize that she is little more than a political human shield in this debate; a sacrificial pawn that allows kings and queens to operate in relative obscurity while she takes the fall if something goes wrong. Climate change is worthy of championing, but not in this fashion; we need not stoop to methods employed by propagandists to promote what is right.
With that in mind, while I do not wish to appear as though I am reinforcing Godwin's Law, I believe the following image accurately portrays how I feel about the opportunistic cowards who are hiding behind Greta Thunberg's passion: