Chapter 8: Media
“Wait, let me just record the interview.”
The journalist grabs his iPhone out of the pocket of his way-too-thin coat. It is a cloudy, freezing day on Mynttorget in the old town of central Stockholm. But just like any other Friday a few dozen others and I have gathered here to stand outside and protest in front of the Swedish parliament. It does get a bit chilly standing there for 7 hours straight in a few windy degrees below zero.
He presses record and holds up the phone towards me.
“So, why are you striking?” he asks.
I’m striking for us to take the climate crisis seriously and treat it like a crisis.
“Yes, but what do you want the politicians to do?”
I want them to listen to and act on the science, do what they have promised to do in the Paris Agreement and treat the crisis like a crisis.
I can tell that I haven’t given him the answers he wanted.
“Yes, but what specifically?”
When I then start talking about carbon budgets he gives up and interrupts. He knows very well he won’t be able to use anything of what I’m now saying in his article. People want something simple and concrete, and they want me to be naive, angry, childish and emotional.
That is the story that sells and creates the most clicks.
“But uh,” he continues, “how are we going to solve this climate issue?”
Just the fact that this question is asked to me – a teenager – over and over is absurd. But not as absurd as the fact that the climate- and ecological emergency is being reduced to a “problem” that needs to be “fixed”. That it is seen as an “important topic” among other “important topics”.
Of course I don’t know how we are going to solve the climate crisis. The fact is that no one knows. There is no magic invention or political plan that will solve everything. Because how do you solve a crisis? How do you solve a war? How do you solve a pandemic without a vaccine?
The only way is to treat the climate crisis like you would treat any other crisis. To come together, gather all the experts, put other things aside and adapt to the new reality. To act as quickly and strongly as the situation allows.
If for instance there’s no vaccine available for a disease you invest all possible resources into developing one as soon as possible, while at the same time taking all other possible measures as well. In a crisis you act even if you don’t know exactly how you are going to solve the problem. In a crisis there’s no time to wait for specific answers and details. Because the answers have to be found along the way. In a crisis you need to put all cards on the table and think long term and holistically. The climate crisis doesn’t have a vaccine. We have to admit that we don’t know how we are going to solve it. Because if we would have known then it wouldn’t have been a crisis in the first place.
There are many who claim that people understand but repress the full meaning of the climate crisis, because the message is too depressing and difficult to handle. That would mean that we continue to do what we do, despite being fully aware of the devastating consequences of our actions. But that I refuse to believe, since this would mean that we humans are evil.
My experience however is that people understand much less about the climate crisis than you’d think. If there’s anything I’ve learned from traveling around the world it is that the level of knowledge and awareness is close to nonexistent.
I’ve met many of the most powerful people in the world. And even among them pretty much everyone lacks even some of the most basic knowledge. So if people are not aware, who is guilty for the message not getting through?
The reporter on Mynttorget is running out of time, he knows his phone’s battery won’t last much longer in the cold.
“But who really is Greta?” he asks. “I think people want to know Greta.”
I’m not important, I answer. This has got nothing to do with me. I’m completely uninteresting. I’m not doing this because I want to become famous or popular or get followers on social media.
“I’m doing this simply because no one else is doing anything.”
This is the transcript of Chapter 8 of the Sverige Radio program aired on June 20, 2020 with the title Greta Thunberg: Humanity has not yet failed.
The full transcript was published by Time magazine on July 10, 2020. Here it is offered in chapters to make it easier to read.
Chapter 9 – Crossing the Atlantic