by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Greta Thunberg needs to get a grip.
The celebrity teen climate activist addressed the United Nations and excoriated the assembled worthies: “You all come to us young people for hope. How dare you! You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words.”
Someone may have stolen her childhood, but the guilty parties can’t be found at Turtle Bay. A 16-year-old from Sweden, Thunberg thundered, “I should be back at school on the other side of the ocean,” which would have been easy enough to achieve, beginning with not taking two weeks to sail across the Atlantic last month in a jet-travel-eschewing publicity stunt.
Greta Thunberg is the leading edge of a youth movement against climate change — including a global “climate strike” last week — that is being promoted and celebrated by adults who find it useful for their own purposes.
Kids are powerful pawns. The catchphrase “for the children” has a seductive political appeal, while kids offer their adult supporters a handy two-step. The same people who say, “The world must heed this 16-year-old girl” will turn around and say to anyone who pushes back, “How dare you criticize a 16-year-old girl.” (I can feel the tweets filling up my mentions right now.)
There’s a reason that we don’t look to teenagers for guidance on fraught issues of public policy. With very rare exceptions — think, say, the philosopher John Stuart Mill, who was a child prodigy — kids have nothing interesting to say to us. They just repeat back what they’ve been told by adults, with less nuance and maturity.