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The Temerity of Greta Thunberg


An environmental activist who is barely a 16-year old, recently created furor when she delivered her less-than five-hundred-word speech at a UN Summit.

Suffused with pent-up rage, she thundered on to make a lasting impression. There’s of course the other side which found the histrionics disagreeable. It splintered social media, with serious doubts being raised about her genuineness. The unsavoury remarks about her mental health only provided grist for the mill.

If she had addressed in a plain manner, would it have created the same kind of impact?

In all likelihood, Thunberg will soon go off the headlines and be replaced with something which is higher in shock value. For now, how dare she, a mere teenager, have the audacity to look down with derision on global honchos who have successfully de-hyphenated economic growth and carbon footprints? To be fair, the leaders can’t always be spited for not doing enough to protect a degrading environment. The global slowdown is real, legacy companies are shutting shop, rendering thousands of workers jobless. In most parts of the world, fossil fuels are still cheaper than renewable energy and that’s why it’s not so easy to transition.

Perhaps, it wasn’t the leaders who she really addressed and the message was meant for us, the common citizen. Think again, the northern parts the country is unbearably hot during summers, and we make nothing of switching on the AC in every room. Again, look at the number of cars on the road – does it give out the impression that more people prefer to use shared cab services?

The incessant traffic snarls belie the Finance Minister’s prediction for which she was mercilessly trolled. When we change our phones every year, does it even occur to most of us that we are adding to the humongous pile of e-waste? We are too caught up with exotic features (which we will seldom use) and the best price on offer, to really care.

Preserving the environment is a collective responsibility and if it’s degrading at a fast clip then we are all to blame equally. Fulfilling aspiration is linked to conspicuous consumption and in a developing nation, it simply cannot be wished away. There are no clear answers because the alternate source of energy is still not economically viable. It’s mostly self-regulatory and we have the Thunbergs of the world shaking us rudely to raise our collective consciousness,

This opinion piece was first published in the print version of SUBURB October 2019 issue.

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