British conservative activist David Vance called out “the sheer arrogance of this petulant child. ” A former Trump staffer declared that “the world laughs at this Greta charade. ” Thunberg has her female critics too, and while a person doesn’t have to be male to be a climate denier, data demonstrates a chasm in attitudes about climate change between men and women, with some research finding that men associate a desire to protect Earth at odds with their sense of what’s “masculine. ” Perhaps that explains the fact that leaders in Thunberg’s movement tend to be girls.
In the meantime the children strike, eschewing hierarchical models of power and control in favor of consensus. “We like to tell people our movement doesn’t have leaders,” says Isabelle Axelsson, 18, who has participated in climate protests in Sweden since December 2018. “Everyone plays such an important role. ” Some, like Thunberg, are adept with social media and press.
And mobilization requires knowledge. “That is what I’m trying to change,” Thunberg tells Glamour. “Because I think once people know, they will rise to the crisis. ” Thunberg returned to school for most of the week after the election, but she still protests with her peers at home and around the world each Friday.
So Thunberg tries to put it in perspective, with a sunnier spin than she sometimes allows: “What people don’t understand is that the people who are involved in the climate movement are so few compared with the whole population. ” Millions and millions of people are still asleep, or blind to the catastrophe we face.
Swedish 15-year-old girl Greta Thunberg holds a placard reading "School strike for the climate" during a protest against climate change outside the Swedish parliament on November 30, 2018.
In an email to Glamour, former vice president and environmentalist Al Gore’s praise bordered on fandom: “Greta Thunberg personally embodies the moral authority of the global youth activist movement that is rightly demanding that we act immediately to start solving the climate crisis.
This time it sounded ominous. “I think the most important thing we can do right now is to inform people about what is actually going on,” Thunberg says later. “I don’t think people in general are ignoring this crisis because they don’t want to see it.
Therein is the crucial paradox of Thunberg’s work: People around the world have declared her the leader of an international movement, but Thunberg sees herself as just one small piece, or perhaps just one small organism.