Jonathan Cook catalogs the three types of criticism that a section of the progressive left is aiming at a Swedish child who is finally saying what they have been thinking.
The more Greta Thunberg articulates the terrifying emotions of awakening to our imminent extinction as a species – as she did, filled with trembling rage, at last week’s UN “action summit” on the climate crisis – the more a section of the progressive left digs its heels in to resist her role as an agent of change.
“We will not let you get away with this.”
Greta Thunberg challenges the UN ‘action summit’ on climate change, telling world leaders “you have stolen my dreams and my childhood”. pic.twitter.com/KKpbKpMKsS
— Channel 4 News (@Channel4News) September 23, 2019
I am not talking here of the “let’s keep our head in the sand” left that denies climate change. Or of the “all we need is for the people to seize the means of production and then pillage the planet on behalf of the workers rather than the bosses” left. Both are annoyingly visible.
I mean the progressive left that understands we are hurtling towards a climate catastrophe engineered by the hubris of a tiny power-elite and our own unthinking, complicit greed. This is the left that knows we need to radically overhaul our societies and priorities, and quickly ween ourselves off fossil fuels, to save life on the planet.
And yet nonetheless, a segment of this left gets angry every time Thunberg appears on TV to set out methodically and movingly why our societies are in the grip of a collective, self-destructive madness. Confronted by Thunberg’s activism, their natural antagonism towards the rich and powerful collapses into a mire of cynicism towards Thunberg herself.
Their arguments fall into three main categories. Let’s assess each on its merits.
No. 1: It’s Child Abuse!
It is strange to see how some on the left suddenly turn into Victorian prudes the moment the 16-year-old Swede says exactly what they have been thinking but does so to much greater effect. Children, it seems, should again only be seen, not heard.
Thunberg and her generation are living on a dying planet, a planet the older generation – through their greed, their alienation from the natural world, and their spiritual emptiness – plundered and despoiled with no thought for those who would follow them.
The people who organized the pillage are our leaders, an elite that dominate the economy and control our politics and the media. But we all conspired in the planet’s destruction. We bought the unnecessary goods they produced and marketed. We believed in their fairy tale of endless growth on a finite planet. We allowed ourselves to be distracted with mindless entertainment while the planet grew hotter and choked on our pollution.
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Our generation carried out a slash-and-burn policy across the entire surface of the planet, leaving our children with no sanctuary while the Earth spends centuries recovering. The most venerated among the grown-ups, our business leaders, wonder whether we can now travel into space to start all over again. And some call Thunberg childish!
The idea that any adult has the right to tell Thunberg and the millions of other children we betrayed that they should simply shut up, stop the strikes and go back to school to finish their studies is ludicrous – and insulting. Teach them what? Teach them the same foolishness, the same selfishness that we were raised on in those educational production lines that turned us into compliant, consumption-loving drones? Do these children really need yet more of the neoliberal brainwashing that prevents most adults from going on strike too to save the planet?
Of course, it’s not right that Thunberg has to spend her childhood protesting so that she may enjoy an adulthood. But her choice to sacrifice her teenage years is not the abuse; it is our behavior that denies her a future, that forces her to spend her youth marching on the streets with millions of other children in an attempt to bring us to our senses.
No. 2: She’s Being Exploited by Corporate Media!
The proof that Thunberg is not to be trusted, it seems, is that she is now receiving so much coverage. The corporate media is owned by big business, so if they are prepared to air Thunberg’s grievances it must be because it serves their – that is, a corporate – agenda. Thunberg is a tool of the rich and powerful, so we are told, whether she herself understands it or not. Whatever the words coming out of her mouth may say, however harshly she criticizes those who rule us, the truth is that her arguments cannot be trusted because of the corporate platform on which they are expressed.
Obviously whenever the billionaire media are relentlessly smashing you in the face with a child mascot they're working to manipulate you. Doesn't mean she herself is bad or that climate change isn't real, it just means they're working to manipulate you in a specific direction.
— Caitlin Johnstone ? (@caitoz) September 23, 2019
When I hear this reasoning, I wonder how we would have reacted back in the 1950s and 60s to Martin Luther King. Had all-pervasive social media been around then, would we have been filled with such certainty that MLK was nothing more than the black mascot of the white establishment? Because after all, he received lots of media coverage too. Would we have reacted as cynically to the Selma march as we do to the climate strikes today? Would we have told MLK he needed to go back to preaching to his congregation, just as we tell Thunberg to get back to her school studies?
This criticism of Thunberg treats the corporate media as if it is only a propaganda machine. There is no harsher critic of corporate media than me. I have spent years using my blog to show that even the most liberal corporate media, such as The Guardian, where I worked for many years, is a sham, constructing for us a largely false image of the world that serves the interests of the rich and powerful.
But with that said, I also recognize that the corporate media is filled with real human beings, with journalists. They are overwhelmingly white, middle-class, privileged, complacent and career-oriented. They care little for truth outside the narrow parameters set for them by the corporate culture they operate within.
But these corporate journalists also have dreams, fears and children. Whatever the media’s commercial priorities, its staff live in the real world, where species are dying off in unprecedented numbers, where the seas are rising and filling with toxic plastic, where fearsome storms are brewing, where chaos is starting to unfold. Be sure, many of these journalists do not understand how bad things already are, and the extent to which they will get worse. Like the climate scientists, they have been trained through their education and filtering to be conservative and deferential.
But despite this, they know things need to change. They increasingly understand that the coming climate crisis is a story that they cannot afford to ignore, because it will soon affect their own lives and those of their children.
The journalists themselves are reaching a tipping point. Some, especially the environment correspondents, wanted decades ago to tell us about the dire future in store for us. I worked with some of them. But they were stopped by a corporate culture that was not ready for their “pessimism.” They were too isolated, too afraid of losing their jobs to dare to make a noise. Now they feel liberated because they have found enough of their colleagues think the same way.
Thunberg is getting attention from corporate journalists because she is giving vent to many years of journalistic frustration. She articulates the journalists’ own justified anxieties and does so in a way that they can accommodate in the trivial, man-bites-dog way they were taught was professionalism. Like some benevolent pied piper, this Swedish child with Asperger’s is leading millions of other children to the barricade. This diminutive, shy figure is bold enough to express what we adults have long wanted to say to an elite that isn’t listening. She is a readymade Davina confronting a corporate Goliath.
The suicidal elite at Davos and at the United Nations enthusiastically clap at her criticisms because none of them want to be singled out as the emperor who is naked. Their welcome is beaded with sweat for what she could yet unleash. It is fear driving their applause. If they can tame her, they will
No. 3: She’s a Tool of Big Business!
As I have pointed out before (here and here), the inevitability of the climate catastrophe we now face was predicted with absolute precision – almost to the week – by scientists working for the fossil fuel industry back in the early 1980s. They knew long, long ago that this moment was coming. The corporations successfully stalled a response for four decades so that they could keep ravaging the planet undisturbed. And we fell for their deceptions and time-wasting over and over again.
This @exxonmobile chart from 1982 predicted that in 2019 our atmospheric CO2 level would reach about 415 parts per million, raising the global temperature roughly 0.9 degrees C.
Update: The world crossed the 415 ppm threshold this week and broke 0.9 degrees C in 2017 1/ pic.twitter.com/sLpOVkwzTF
— Tom Randall (@tsrandall) May 14, 2019
Now the game is up. As those scientists on the corporate payroll secretly predicted long ago, the effects on the planet’s climate can no longer be concealed from the public simply as the short-term vagaries of weather. A different kind of approach is needed.
It goes without saying that the corporations hope to maintain for as long as they can the neoliberal capitalist system that has enriched them and conferred on them almost limitless power. Their best tactic at this stage, given how real-world events are unfolding, is to abandon their denial of a climate crisis and persuade us instead that it is too late for action, that we have missed the boat.
If the sky has already fallen in, then there is no point trying to save the planet. Its fate is sealed. The best response to unstoppable climate breakdown, they will argue, are technical fixes (that will once again line their corporate pockets) to delay the worst effects while we all carry on regardless, partying till the music stops. We will be urged to plunder for our team before the other side gets its hands on the last of the goodies.
There will be plenty more of this kind of argument in the next few years. But there are no signs it will come from Thunberg and the child strikers.
If the corporations are creating or adopting a figurehead to neuter the climate movement, Greta Thunberg is a strange choice indeed. Her forthrightness has been liberating. Her indignation and anger emboldening. Her guilelessness infectious. Her youthful commitment a sharp, shameful slap in the face to our own laziness and worldweariness.
We on the left have long prayed for mass mobilisation, for ordinary people to get off their behinds, take to the streets in protest and reclaim their power against the elites ruling over us. And yet when someone finally manages to do it on a global scale – a teenager, no less – all we can do is sit in judgment, scoffing at her and those who cheer her on.
Does it mean, now that she and her protests have exploded on to the international scene, that our corporate rulers will not try to coopt Thunberg or her cause? Of course not. It is a given that they will seek to redirect these new, dangerous passions in futile and fruitless directions.
Thunberg is not Wonder Girl. She will have to navigate through these treacherous waters as best she can, deciding who genuinely wants to help, who is trying to sabotage her cause, and which partners she can afford to ally with. She and similar movements will make mistakes. That is how social protests always work. It is also how they evolve.
Martin Luther King himself maneuvered, sometimes clumsily, between the pressing demands for equality from black America he sought to articulate and the fears of a white America that felt its privileges were in danger. It is quite reasonable to argue that he failed in his mission, that his dream was derailed. The United States is still a deeply racist society decades later. With the help of the corporate media, U.S. leaders have largely coopted MLK’s legacy, reinventing him as a non-threatening totem for a non-existent coexistence.
But despite his failure, MLK’s inspiring words and actions changed the U.S. in ways that can never be reversed. He gave a moral voice to a cause to which garden-variety racists now usually pay lip service. He may not have succeeded in ending the institutional racism of the U.S. single-handedly, but that failure does not taint his legacy or undermine what he achieved before he was silenced by an assassin. Certainly, it does not suggest, except to perennial conspiracy theorists, that he colluded with white racists or did their bidding unwittingly.
Thunberg and the next generation have an even steeper hill to climb than MLK. They must change our relationship not just to the worst elements in our societies but to the planet itself. That will require an entirely new vision of our future – and the place where such a vision is most likely to take root is among the ranks of the young, those whose idealism has not yet been crushed by our education and career systems.
Should Thunberg be captured, wittingly or not, by Western elites, there is no reason to assume that the many millions of young and old alike joining her on the climate strikes will not be able to recognize her cooption or whether she has lost her way. Those making this argument arrogantly assume that only they can divine the true path. They assume that Thunberg’s words have no life, logic or moral force independently of who she is or whether, like MLK, she is ultimately silenced.
More worrying still, they deny the possibility of a gathering collective wisdom, a rapid growth in consciousness of the kind necessary to save us as a species. The dismissal on the left of Thunberg and the climate protests is likely to sow seeds of despair and hopelessness – the very outcome the elites who are trying to neuter those protests so desperately crave.
Jonathan Cook is a freelance journalist based in Nazareth.
This article is from his blog Jonathan Cook.net.
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I wonder who we will go to war against to stop climate change, since that’s the only solution Government comes up with when fear is the selling point. Or will we just devolve into a chaotic, indiscriminate tribal slaughter that results from religious fervor?
One thing that won’t happen is the military industrial (etc) complex will cease creating whatever it is that is undoubtedly making Earth uninhabitable. (Thermonuclear devices, bombers, aircraft carriers, Real estate development, electricity grids, houses, roads, bridges, surfboards, cars, sandwiches, pizzas.)
By my calculations, if the world will be ending in 12 years, there’s no stopping it now. We should have started saving the planet several hundred years ago. These things take time, people.
It no longer is a matter of “left”, “right” or “centre”. Survival is a matter that concerns ALL of us. Take politics out of this – enough damage already done. And take all the corrupt political leaders out of this too…
We need to stop talking about the “left”, the “right” and the “centre”. All of humanity is in this boat that seems to be sinking rather rapidly. Blaming each other isn’t going to help. Putting down those who are daring to open our eyes and minds isn’t going to help either.
This is plainly an attempt to create generational divisions among liberals. To trick young liberals into blaming all older people for the problems not yet fixed, and set them against those who have struggled all their lives for progress. Young liberals can then fix everything by dreaming, separated from the knowledge, techniques, and advice of those more experienced. Older liberals can then limp to demonstrations where young people will not show up because of those older people. No one would suggest such madness without hostile intent to divide liberals and serve the rich.
The climate issue is promoted by MSM purely to suppress all other issues, and has completely emasculated liberal reform movements.
1. Nothing can be done about climate change or any other issue until democracy is restored in the US: all federal branches and the mass media are completely controlled by money power and the people control none of them: none of the tools of democracy remain to restore democracy. So let’s pretend that whining about the weather will fix democracy if Santa Claus hears us, and not even mention the problem of restoring democracy so that these changes can begin.
2. Climate change is slow and little can be done by the US alone: sure we can do what is possible and work for international standards, but the developing world will ignore that because they want relief from poverty, about which the US has done nothing since WWII as it could and should have done.
You are missing the point entirely.
1) It’s not about the USA. Fridays for Future is the first genuinely global movement, based in Europe but already mobilizing masses of young people just about everywhere (well, I don’t know whether Chinese youth are participating yet)
> Older liberals can then limp to demonstrations where young people will not show up because of those older people.
Obviously you haven’t actually seen the demonstrations. The opposite is true.
If as implied the demonstrations concern mainly climate change, you missed my point.
Nothing like that can go beyond feel-good pseudo-activism until democracy is restored.
It does not matter how many show up at such demonstrations; they are merely parties.
Few intelligent persons deny the basics of climate change: there is no real controversy.
But we have no democracy, so like the more immediate problems here, nothing is done.
If young people unite with all ages as activists, it is despite such generational propaganda.
Agreed. Commercial and some noncommercial broadcast & cable TV and radio are the villains in suppressing an open and honest discussion of the potential of global warming and its ramifications and consequences. Maybe an informal, localized Council of Elders might help to sway the discussion in a more useful and productive direction. The MSM—including alleged “public” outlets —have to be challenged every day in every way. It is really not that difficult—just use normal “feedback” and “contact” links. Keep the responses clean, pointed, pungent, and informative. What remains of the print media is another story—but there is always pamphleteering and local newsletters. The MSM cannot be destroyed, but it can be circumvented.
Greta has done her part—I have mixed feelings about her presentation, not about her conviction nor message importance.
Now it’s up to the tangible implementation of realistic solutions to accumulated societal problems, such as: stopping suburban housing development, particularly if agriculturally useful land is to be confiscated; inexpensive, subsidized public transportation; encouragement of suburban and urban gardens, such as mandatory vegetable gardens, one fruit or nut tree in every backyard (where or when feasible); creation of publicly owned communal vegetable/fruit gardens; public subsidization of energy efficient retrofitting–windows, solar heating, etc.; massive publicly financed reforestation projects; efficient and inexpensive low energy public transportation–local and national; immediate stoppage of military use of fossil fuels—the military use of fossil fuels is staggering, particularly in USA. As acute readers will note, I’ve only scraped the proverbial surface of realistic ways to incrementally attack global warming. Time to get going locally, statewide, and nationally and where and when feasible, internationally. Forget the mega-capitalist corporations and banking houses—they are corrupt beyond belief. Go the way of publicly owned and operated banks and responsible credit unions. And don’t put it off any longer.
Thank you Jonathan; spot on. 1) the polar ice caps are our planet’s cold-storage depots; they store an enormous amount of cold. 2) They are central in maintaining the balance between heat and cold which in turn is central to the weather all over our planet. 3) We cannot radically alter that balance without radically altering the weather. 4) We ARE radically altering that balance, and we are radically altering the weather (ca. seven million of the souls seeking to enter our southern border this year were trying to escape climate-caused food scarcity). Yes, there are natural cycles of global warming and cooling but there has never been one like this; always before the causes of these cycles have been comparatively local; this one is global, it is enormous, and it is primarily caused by our pouring CO2 and other “greenhouse gases” into our atmosphere since the Industrial Revolution. 5) If we allow things to deteriorate past a certain point (scientists say ca. 350 parts per million of CO2 in our atmosphere) we may not be able to avoid an explosive, runaway increase in that deterioration, which would have enormously significant effects (e.g. on food production alone) that actually could threaten life as we know it on our planet. 6) We recently reached 415ppm; we are already seeing very significant effects of this, and this is just the beginning. Unbelievably, we are still headed for the cliff with our pedal to the metal in top gear, with the cliff twelve feet away. This does not speak well for homo (supposedly) sapiens.
How is it possible to exaggerate the importance of these facts? We can turn our heads away (as so many of us continue to do) but that will not change the truth; it will only make things worse, and the U.N. (for just one example) says that we have only about twelve years left to straighten out and fly right if we are to avoid “catastrophe”. In such conditions, what kind of mentality, what kind of heart can prevent us from fully sharing Greta’s tears and her outrage? And to fly to her side? Greta and Jonathan are speaking nothing but the plain (although frightening) truth, and all the lack of understanding; the carping and parsing we see so much of cannot change that.
But all the above notwithstanding, each and every one of is is a child of God. Even if we blow it here and go over that cliff we will not; we cannot stop the real human journey, which we have now brought to a critical point on Planet Earth. The peril of this moment is immense but it is dwarfed by the opportunity that is inherent in the situation. If we realize what’s really happening and make the right choice (Right vs. Wrong) we can still avoid going over the cliff and in fact we will enter a whole new octave of Life. But that’s another book!
Mr. Cook says this teenager is not being exploited, and many disagree. Shaking your finger isn’t going to change that. People are conscious that Democrats selected “climate change” as their 2020 campaign theme, and doubt that Thunberg would have become a daily story in US media if not for that fact. That said, note that this summer’s climate change rallies, etc., were essentially a rerun of 1970, and the first Earth Day. The discussion about the environment and climate change has been ongoing for years.
I don’t doubt Thunberg’s sincerity. But I know that when the novelty wears off — and it will — she’s likely to have a hard time readjusting to normal teenaged life, preparing for her adult years.
I would disagree. The Democrats 2020 campaign theme is actually “Trump is an evil Russian/Ukranian bad man that Our Spies don’t like, so lets impeach him and not campaign on any concrete issues, and also it’s unpatriotic to look at Biden’s record or question the Empire” You won’t see very much at all about climate change, especially in the general election.
The comments certainly endorse your analysis – all of your observations are borne out. And, as usual, there is plenty of reality to serve the divergent views. Yes, the MSM focus on one person is a bad sign, but it’s quite typical. Ride that horse, until interest wanes as the search for novelty is rewarded by ‘news’. MSMers may have families, fears, etc., but they may well believe that there are corners of the Earth that will help them and theirs survive – perhaps prosper – as long as they have the money and entree due their celebrity status. Caitlyn is not wrong; narrative control is key, but Greta’s narrative is quite compelling. I think that the media have been largely unable to figure out how to dilute it, as she stays very consistent and shows no obvious signs of corrupt dealings. In fact I think that her alleged personality ‘problem’ helps to shield her. Just wouldn’t be PC to talk about her ‘disability’ – which imo is a strength, as it seems to help her maintain focus and control.
Of course, the corporatocracy is the main culprit in the climate change situation, whether we are climate cycling or not. (Look at the corals around the world and tell me that ocean acidification due to CO2 increase is not a factor.) Of course it is troubling that Greta was invited to Davos and seems to have supporters among the plutocracy, but I stand with the folks who say that such events are podia that we rarely reach. And Greta uses them well.
Of course, I would like Greta to push class war, but in the meantime the Green New Deal obviously supports the bottom 90%; so leftists should support it whether or not they ‘believe in’ global warming or climate-change catastrophe.
Love her or not. Believe her or not — But I guarantee we’d all love our own child to show even a tiny part of her drive, her character and her morals.
I recently saw two films, one new and the other several years older. Ad Astra was the recent one. The other was Gravity.
Both movies have space travel and the return to Earth as central themes. It’s the latter that brings home, at least to me, the notion of the human species and our home on this planet. The artificial space travel is void of all life systems (except technology).
When the humans return there is a sense of reconnections with our natural life systems which is truly exhilarating. That moment is very brief and comes at the very end of each film.
So when Greta speaks, whatever we think about her possible “sponsors”, she is speaking as someone who has this sense of the destruction, human destruction, of our natural life systems. This is not simply about fossil excess, but about the entire degradation of our ecosystem, and without a doubt WE have been for centuries engaged in a project of self-destruction that includes all of life.
If we’re lucky we may come out with a civilization that interplays with life giving systems. IF…
Thank you Jonathan for such a beautifully written article – and thank you for calling out the so-called adults in the room who refuse the truth even as it bites them in the ass. Greta has more moxy in her little finger than many of those who would love to see her fail, or who can’t believe that a 16 year old can think for herself. Greta is no one’s fool and for those who think she is being manipulated somehow I challenge you to look at yourselves in the mirror and ask – who and what is manipulating me? Personally, I stand by Greta – she is the first person who has truly reached my heart and soul. Look and listen, she is the real deal – the rest of us are simply pawns for the machine.
You’re drinking the cool-aide friend. Acid rain, in eastern Canada and U.S.A. has left its mark with thosands of dead lakes that will never recover. The same is happening to the oceans today. The cause, human release of billions of tons of carbon 12 based CO2 gas, directly into the atmosphere, where it is precipitated as carbonic acid, ending up polluting in the oceans- is CO2 good for underwater plant-life? This is a fact. Unfortunately, it also absorbs reflected heat radiation into the atmosphere, another fact.
“But we all conspired in the planet’s destruction. We bought the unnecessary goods they produced and marketed. We believed in their fairy tale of endless growth on a finite planet. We allowed ourselves to be distracted with mindless entertainment while the planet grew hotter and choked on our pollution.”
So you want to attack the people with no money and no power. I’m waiting for the line about blaming people for Trump because they voted for Jill Stein.
The reality is the majority of global warming is caused by about 100 corporations. So we plebeians using less of the plant’s resources WILL NOT stop global warming.
Put the blame were it squarely belongs.
Thank you Jonathan Cook for this forthright commentary. Very disappointing reaction by Caitlin Johnstone whose work I greatly respect.
I often read, though don’t participate in, the comment threads at Truthdig and have read many times arguments 1 and 2 expressed there. That of course is not journalists with a wide platform and it is safe to say that some making those accusations about Greta are actually agent provocateurs of the opposition (to environmental responsibility) promoting memes that their “research” tells them will resonate with us concerned proles on “the left.” Misinformation, disinformation, misdirection, and throttling momentum, are all the orders of the day for those that wish to keep their grip on economic domination.
People like Caitlin who understand very well the nature and power of “the narrative” should offer their help to Greta so that she is not eaten alive by the lions and wolves and her bones tossed into the memory hole.
Did you actually read Caitlin’s words in the context of her essay? While I liked Cook’s piece, I do believe he took Caitlin out of context. There are better examples of the point he was trying to make.
This article reminds me of when Juan ‘Bomb Libya!’ Cole excoriated the anti-war left for not supporting yet another US-led NATO regime change war in the Middle East. Self reflection is a fine thing, and usually found only on the left, but this is fake-left undermining.
Personally, I do not consider 16 year olds to be children. As someone who left school at 15 (perfectly legitimately back in the UK in 1963) and went to work at a full-time job, this isn’t childhood but adolescence. (I then went to art college for two years when 16 years old and lived on my own and worked during the vacations full-time.)
OK – two points that I think Jonathan Cook leaves out of his critique of Left leaning criticisms:
1. The criticisms of the use of Thunberg have, to a significant extent focused on the (rightful) fear that corporate-capitalism will *monetize* everything (they already have gone a long way toward doing that anyway) in the natural world. Thereby those flora and fauna which cannot be monetized, are considered “worthless,” “useless” – to humans, to capitalist exploitation – will be (as so much has already been) destroyed.
Then there is the question – upon which groups in society will the carbon taxes fall most heavily (should they be introduced)? They certainly will not hurt the upper 20-10%ers, the elites, i.e. those who are more heavily responsible for carbon output and possibly also for methane production, too (animal agri-business).
How is it helpful for the planet and the *other* fauna, besides humans who are not, nor should they be, the only living creatures that matter, if we carpet desert areas, for example, with “solar farms”? These areas and others used for such need to take into account that other animals, from the smallest to the largest, are the most seriously affected by only, ever, concentrating on *our* needs, wants, desires.
Nor is it a matter simply of global warming through carbon production. Rainforests have been and are being felled right, left and center – for Palm Oil production (largely Unilever owned) so that we in the west can have spreadable margarine (what did they use before they lit on palm oil?). Try finding even “environmentally, animal friendly” margarine that doesn’t contain any – and then look at the price: well beyond that of people of conscience but low incomes. For agri-business – soy production, animal production, all to feed the already well fed, often too well fed. And all of that shit these poor animals evacuate – ends up in water courses, aquifers, oceans as well as filling the atmosphere with methane, a far worse greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide (into which it anyway eventually changes over the course of decades).
2. The other criticism, which is truly, I think important: where is, in all of these protests, any, let alone a big concern about the US (in particular) military’s footprint? Carbon dioxide and depleted uranium.
With its hundreds of bases around the world, with its perpetual warmaking, bombing (drones and bomber aircraft), huge fleet of naval warships motoring around the oceans as if the USA owned them all and they all lapped against these shores. With its tanks, and other motorized vehicles – the military (and doubtless the related industries back in country) pour out MORE CO2 than most of the rest of the world’s nations combined.
The US (proudly?) uses depleted uranium in its weaponry, particularly is bullets and missiles. This is *not* an innocent, unproblematic mineral/metal. In Iraq alone there is much “fallout” from the use of these during the first Gulf War – deformed children, radiation caused ailments.
The US has used on more than one occasion white phosphorous, napalm, agent orange – all of these devastate, each in their own way, the natural environment for decades, if not centuries (agent orange continues to affect Vietnam’s ecosystem and its people).
While we ponce around the world stage dictating to others about how they must *not* have nuclear weapons or serious defensive missiles (all the easier then to destroy that smaller, lesser nation), *our* nuclear collection is enormous and *we* don’t even allow a thought about reducing it, let alone eliminating it. Moreover, the US military and their chums in the MIC and related agencies are *more* than willing to devastate – for who knows how long – the lives, the environments, the infrastructures and so on – using so-called tactical nuclear weapons….
When the climate protests by the youthful of today take on the military behemoth, include that in their profound and urgent declamations of what we are doing to this lovely planet, then the criticisms by the left of such as Thunberg might well cease and desist.
I’m always skeptical of high profiles made so by the MSM Inc. (That includes AOC.)
Permitted protests have been a means of letting off steam. The old addage, if she were a real threat we’d probably never know her, or worse may apply.
Can any of this make a difference? Not as long as you’re pleading with the power structure that minute by minute profits from variations of the systemic status quo.
Even the leaning on science, the handmaiden of eco-cide, needs to be balanced in its use to only measure the unmeasurable. Ecological degradation challenges human civilization as it was invented and emerged as a force against the living systems that supports life.
“In my beginning is my end.” East Coker, TS Elliot
PS. As for your MLK argument… Martin Luther King was assassinated, precisely, after he started demanding, not only justice for the people of color in the US, but a social revolution to put an end to social injustice for the benefit of all the citizens at large. This was what really was unacceptable for the power-that-be in the US. Fifty years after MLK’s assassination though, the same issues he denounced have come back to haunt the US and her establishment… but with a vengeance, … with the threat of the extermination of all the human race as a backdrop. Many at the helm right now are OK with it… as long as they can keep their privileges for the time being.
This is nonsense. Cory Morningstar has done a very good job of exposing some of the nastier elements behind the Greta Thunberg phenomenon. These include groups like Avaaz, which has tried to mobilize support for NATO intervention in Libya and Anglo-US support for the Syrian rebels, and the corporate-funded 350.org. Why do you suppose Greta tweeted against Russia?
Because she thought it would be a cool idea? Or was it because someone put her up to it? Yes, climate change is vitally important. Indeed, it’s the great challenge of the age. But allowing corporate interests to steer the movement in a rightwing direction is tragic, and leftists shouldn’t be slammed for pointing that out.
OK, I’ll admit I haven’t paid much attention to Greta Thunberg or the phenomenon surrounding her, and probably should have kept my fingers off the keyboard on this one. I assumed as a matter of course she would be manipulated, then marginalized, then forgotten. I’m having a hard time though swallowing that she and the phenomenon surrounding her can be effectively incorporated into the greater Machiavellian schemes of our masters.
She is northern European, and it seems natural that she would wonder where are the Russians in this effort, though I don’t deny the possibly that what you pointed out may be a result of manipulation. I’ll have to familiarize myself with Cory Morningstar apparently.
I am no Russophobe, and would rather see all of humanity in the mode of co-operation and collaboration than in the confrontation and conflict mode we’re stuck in. Admittedly the US is the most insistent that we stay stuck in this mode, but neither do I anticipate Russia to be a help rather than a hindrance in confronting “the great challenge of the age.” The reason is simple to understand; Russia’s great oil and gas wealth is the bedrock of its economic health. At this time, and in the foreseeable future, they seem to have little choice but to continue and to increase the production and consumption of oil and gas. Russia’s problem is a problem for all of us (especially the younger generations,) just as the US’s, China’s, India’s, etc. problems are problems for all of us.
So, manipulated or not, it is fitting for Greta Thunberg to ask “Why can’t Russian students march?”
Excellent! Thanks Jonathan Cook – a rare voice of reason.
This is an excellent podcast interview with Naomi Wolf, who has been sounding the alarm against 5G “smart grid” (S.M.A.R.T. – Secret Military Armaments in Residential Technology?) millimeter wave technology. These mini cell towers are too close to the ground and have already been known to cause cancer clusters, not to mention the obscene invasion of privacy that the Internet of Things would usher in, similar to China’s social credit system. Find it on globalresearch.ca, green-new-deal-and-the-climate-movement-trojan-horses-for-the-billionaire-class.
“Now the game is up. As those scientists on the corporate payroll secretly predicted long ago, the effects on the planet’s climate can no longer be concealed from the public simply as the short-term vagaries of weather. A different kind of approach is needed.”
The name of this new approach is ‘Greta Thunberg’.
When a 16 year old is magically transported to the centre of attention at the World Economic Forum, or when corporations give their white collar employees the day off to attend a ‘strike’, you are not dealing with the politics of an individual teenager or a ‘grassroots’ movement. The ruling class has decided to seize the initiative in order to strip the struggle for climate justice of any emancipatory potential.
Instead of conflict between classes, between a ruling class that has systematically destroyed all vehicles for collective action and a working class struggling to make a life for themselves amongst the wreckage, corporate-backed climate groups like Extinction Rebellion substitute a conflict between generations. By separating young people from those with more political experience and setting them against those with any institutional power, the ruling class can mould this mass of desperate humanity in their own image. In this topsy-turvy world, a ‘woke’ billionaire who trafficks in carbon credits is an ally, while a worker who commutes using a diesel vehicle is an implacable foe.
The corporate climate movement speaks the language of ‘shared sacrifice’. Further sacrifice is not popular amongst a working class that has already sacrificed so much on the altar of Neoliberalism. By commodifying carbon emissions and the rest of our ‘ecological footprint’, the rich can easily ‘offset’ any sacrifices onto the rest of us, all the while making a speculative buck.
We are sick of ‘shared sacrifice’. It is time for the ruling class to sacrifice. To sacrifice their mansions and private jets. To sacrifice their monopoly on our politics. And above all to sacrifice their ability to allocate our society’s capital solely in the pursuit of profit. We must reestablish the state’s ability to directly allocate capital for public ends, not just in pursuit of a just transition from fossil fuels, but also to regain our rights to full employment and universal provision in health, education and welfare.
A new generation of young activists will soon be looking for a political perspective that has not been formulated by a multinational PR company, and we must be ready to join them in formulating it.
PS Does anyone else think the Extinction Rebellion ‘hourglass’ logo looks like it came from the same advertising agency that created the ‘pie chart’ logo of the ‘Identitaires’?
The trouble is that, apart from predicting the extinction of mankind, no one ever bothers to tell us what exactly should be done. Do we have to dump our washing machines and cars and go back to harvesting wheat with a sickle?
The Greta fans vs Greta haters discussion is pointless.
Why do we never read anything about what exactly are we to do about limiting our emissions or about the true efficiency of wind mills or solar panels?
I have to admit I’ve been a bit confused why the corporate media and mainstream NGOs would feature anybody passionately speaking direct truths that cut at our society. I can understand the tendency toward skepticism: pretty much everything that gets elevated these days is phony or manipulative propaganda. That she has a platform to speak to the scientific and moral reality of our predicament rather than (say) imploring us to “Save the Children of Syria” with cruise missiles, is actually pretty shocking. I had not really considered the possibility that this could be corporate journalists might empathize with Greta.
I think one other factor is that mainstream media can’t really resist a “Little Girl Takes On The World” story, and that the nature of the story, rather than the content, is the hook.
“Little Girl Takes On The World” story – my thinking exactly, although I couldn’t have said it so well. When Greta “ages out” the MSM will lose interest.
“Our imminent extinction as a species”
This article is about Greta Thunberg and the reaction to her leadership not an article about the science behind her claims. You want evidence about “our imminent extinction as a species” type it into DuckDuckGo and you’ll find plenty of articles on the subject. Look up Dr. Rajani Kanth if you’re interested in a perspective on human extinction.
There is none. When the dinosaurs were alive, most of the planet was a tropical sea/landscape. Then we had an ice age. Now it is purportedly getting warmer. Then it will likely freeze again. It is cyclical.
Josef, I suggest you do some basic reading about the climate history of our planet. The version you have laid out above is pretty bastardized.
For one, we are currently existing in the Quaternary glaciation which started about 2.6 million-years-ago. It has been punctuated by many glacial maximums and minimums. Human cultural adaptations (more precisely adaptations within genus Homo) emerged over the last 2.6 million years that have allowed our species to exploit almost every environment on the planet barring the extremely high latitudes.
The last time CO2 concentrations were this high was during the Pliocene Epoch (5.3 – 2.6 mya). Our Ardipithicene and Australopithecene ancestors evolved in these contexts, but our genus did not. Our genus emerged and thrived specifically because we were better adapted to the environmental changes seen during the end of the Pliocene and the beginning of the Quaternary glaciation. All of our biological and cultural adaptations emerged during this ice age, punctuated by the ebb and flow of ice sheets and thus sea levels contributing to cyclical climate change we are adapted to and have survived.
All of our complex civilization has emerged in the last 10,000 years during the most recent (and also unusually stable from a temperature standpoint) interglacial period. Humans have now altered the atmospheric chemistry of earth to such an extent that we have most probably warded off the next glacial maximum and have probably instigated the end of the Quaternary glaciation…ie our species evolutionary and adaptive context.
Which is to say: from a geologic, evolutionary, ecological, and paleoenvironmental perspective we are in grave danger of going extinct. This given that we have radically altered our atmosphere in such a way as to destroy the environmental niche that our species/genus has been exploiting for the last 2.6 million years. Either way, if humans survive our civilization most surely will not.
The evidence is there, but not easily accessible unless you know how to use Google scholar in conjunction with scihub. This evidence is specifically: (1) the detailed record of our planet’s climate history that has emerged over the last 60 years and specifically the strong correlation between atmospheric CO2 and temperature and how this is mediated by the milankovitch cycles, (2) the understanding of evolution and ecology pertaining to how species evolve in and are adapted to specific environments that has emerged since the development of the “modern synthesis” in the 1940s, (3) the voluminous case studies in the fields of paleoecology and paleobiology demonstrating that extinctions of particular fauna are often linked to climate change, and finally (4) see the entire fossil record of the planet…the average lifespan of a species is around 2 million years and 99%+ of all species we have evidence of are now extinct.
The takeaway: extinction is the rule and survival over even shorter timespans is not guaranteed.
As a member of the anti war left I love her and all the other children/young adults’ that have taken this on and gotten press and tv time. Will the elite throw them under the bus? You bet they will as soon as they can turn the tide of thought against them. Sad
you are wrong. The elite will not succeed in “turning the tide of thought against” this movement of the young generation against the exploitation of our planet. Their course is so right and so obvious and they are so numerous that even if the elite might have the means and/or would be evil enough to shut up Greta Thunberg in one way or another, the movement will inevitably go on. Imho the example of MLK is a fine proof. It takes more work to erase billions of tiny seeds than to fight an army. I love this amazing girl and wish her all the best. May she prevail.
The flabbergasting and disgusting adversity of the left towards great little Greta left me somehow perplexed everytime i came across it. This stunning and brilliant analysis of their motivations is answering some of my brooding questions.
Thank you, Jonathan Cook, for your great and loving article.