Danny Bloom
I seek the truth wherever it lies.

Is Greta the Swedish 15-year-old school-strike speaker being ‘instrumentalized’?

Notice that the letters of ”Greta” can be re-arranged and spelled ”Great”!

Now listen to this plea from an adult who has been watching the media circus with sensitivity to Greta’s future growth as a human being.

It’s great when young people take an interest in important issues, be it school bullying or racial discrimination or social justice or … climate change. But at the same time, in the case of Greta Thunberg the now world-famous 15 year old Swedish schoolchild whose mom and dad are vocal climate activists and very famous celebrities in Sweden on their own, we need to remember and protect young people from exploitation by well-meaning adults who might be using her for their own well-intentioned purposes to sound the alarm about climate climate change, but are the adults of Sweden and the USA and the UK and Australia “instrumentalizing” Greta for their own ends?

Is what the media is doing to her and for her and with her — ethical or unethical? Are students are ”oracles” or ”redeemers” to be crowned and followed? Some newspapers in Sweden have already compared her with Jesus Christ. Is this a good thing do to her, for her, for us?

Jesus Christ is now a 15 year old autistic ”climate activist” who speeches are written by her parents and other adults for her?

Kids are vulnerable and susceptible, precisely because they’re kids. And they have a right to dignity and integrity, as does Greta. That’s true regardless of how justified their views are and however much they want to be in the limelight, and irrespective of how good the cause they stand for is.

Is Greta being used in an unhealthy, unethical manner? Is she being instrumentalized by adults who mean well but who might be setting up something that later on they will wish they had not set up? Can Greta live up to all the hype she has been thrust into?

What will become of her in future years? We need to consider her needs too?

What does it mean to instrumentalize someone? The dictionary puts it this way: ”To make someone into an instrument for achieving a goal.”

Greta Thunberg, yes, has addressed, inspired and challenged the UN’s recently-concluded climate summit in Poland and she has increased pressure on climate issues through her world famous climate strike outside the Swedish parliament building in Stockholm.

But how much media exposure is too much? Where will all this lead? How will all this end?

Is this also about the untimely and unethical exploitation of a child? Should we exploit a child to save the climate? But what if it ends up causing her stress in her future life, because the climate struggle is not going to produce results she wants ever or soon. We know that. She does not know how the adult world operates. Someone is writing her speeches for her. She is the actor putting those words into the world’s media and videos on Youtube, but how will this end for Greta? She is a sensitive and vulnerable young person, mature beyond her age, for sure, but still a human being who needs to be protected, too.

The struggle for the climate must be based on human rights.

Is she to be called an “oracle” or a “savior” all of her teenage years, and then what? What happens to her in her 20s and 30s?

The Swedish Church on Twitter appointed Greta Thunberg to be Jesus’ successor. Isn’t that going a bit too far?

The issue here is not about being for or against the climate fight, but whether you are for or against the media exploitation of children. The public can be tough. So is it acceptable to use children in the climate debate, no matter how good the purpose is? I say this not to silence Greta, but to protect her. Understanding the difference is an important part of us being adults.

Your comments are welcome here, pro or con.

About the Author
Danny Bloom is editor of The Cli-Fi Report at www.cli-fi.net. Danny graduated from Tufts University in Boston in 1971 with a major in Yiddish Literature. A newspaper editor and reporter since his days in Alaska, Japan and Taiwan, he has lived and worked in 14 countries and speaks French, Japanese and Chinese. He hopes to live until 2032, when his tombstone will read "I came, I saw, I ate cho-dofu."
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