Opinion - October 28, 2019

Who are Greta Thunberg’s detractors?

- Photo by Eric Demers / Polaris

Written by Bertrand Piccard 4 min read

The politicians and industry leaders offended by Greta Thunberg's call for us to “listen to the science” are not just responsible for the inaction in the face of the climate crisis, they are also the ones whose complacency make it possible to legally pollute the air that kills 7 million annually, dump billions of tons of plastic into the oceans, destroy biodiversity, contaminate our food and water with hormones, antibiotics and pesticides, and deplete natural resources. Their actions and inaction feeds inequality, squeezing the space for effective political solutions. And so whilst they are not the initiators of these disasters, they are complicit in them by not urgently pushing the necessary measures to change course.

What offends them so? That they are told the truth in a language that is finally clear and devoid of the flattery to which they are accustomed? To have their inadequacies pointed out to them? Finally someone is doing it, and fortunately this message is getting the attention it deserves! It is high time that all the pieces of the puzzle were put together to show the whole picture: a group of political and financial leaders unable to protect the quality of life of their voters, citizens, customers and suppliers. And how do they react to a teenage girl's revolt? By denigrating her age, trying to smear her, by asking who she is to dare to address them, what expertise she has when all she asks for is that they listen and follow the experts.

I recently heard a member of parliament tell a journalist that he would boycott the young Swedish woman's speech on the pretext that he already knew everything she was going to say. It's such a pity that the journalist didn't ask why then he wasn’t doing anything if he already knew all of it!

It is so easy to criticize others to hide your own inaction. But we can see that voters are less and less fooled. Traditional parties are losing votes, citizens are taking to the streets, legal actions are being brought against governments for complicity in endangering the population. And this is only the beginning.

By vilifying their 16-year-old accuser, they only highlight to what extent they themselves are the problem. Instead of belittling her, they should be responding to the demands of youth and spontaneously announcing the implementation of measures that their predecessors have not taken. They should thank Greta for giving them the opportunity to adopt much more ambitious environmental and energy policies. Because solutions to the most urgent problems exist and are financially viable. I see it every day through the Solar Impulse Foundation. However, they will never be applied as long as the destruction of our planet remains authorized by an outdated and inadequate legal framework.

And thus, the refusal to act becomes a sign of an inability to govern.

Written by Bertrand Piccard on October 28, 2019

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