Monday, December 17, 2018

A tale of two young climate activists: Comparing Greta Thunberg in Poland in 2018 -- and Severn Suzuki in Rio in 1992




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. Take 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. In December 2018, Greta made made global headlines for her impassioned speech to U.N. climate conference caught most of the adults there by surprise.

Greta, yes, addressed, inspired and challenged the U.N.'s recently-concluded climate summit in Poland  and she has increased pressure on climate issues through her world famous ''school strike against climate change'' outside the Swedish parliament building in Stockholm.

Three cheers for Greta Thunberg.



Now let's go back 25 years or so, to the global climate summit in Rio when a 12--year-old girl from Canada, Severn Suzuki, the daughter of Canadian climate activist David Suzuki, who also made an impassioned six-minute speech to the adults assembled there. Her short speech went viral, later went up on YouTube, and is still being watched in 2018 by thousands of people, young and old, on YouTube as we speak. 

She became a celebrity, went to Yale, married a Canadian Haida man, gave birth to two bi-cultural children and now in her 30s still remains active in Canada and in global climate discussions.

At the age of 12, she silenced the world for six minutes at the first U.N. Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. Her married name is Severn Cullis-Suzuki, and she is active online on Twitter and other social media platforms.  As daughter of environmental guru David Suzuki, she caught the world's attention in 1992 and she later became an activist and environmentalist in her own right.

In 1992, Severn, just 12, addressed a room of delegates at the Rio conference, and left them all speechless.

"Our group of four Canadian kids felt it was important to go," Cullis-Suzuki says now, reflecting on what happened then, many years later. "We figured it was going to be mostly old men, sitting around, making decisions that are going to affect our future and the future generation. So we wanted to go as the conscience -- as a reminder to those decision makers, who their decisions would truly affect."

Like Greta Thunberg's speech in Poland, Severn's six-minute speech revealed her fears over the state of the environment, and her concerns for generations to come.

“You don't know how to fix the holes in our ozone layer,” she said in 1992 in Rio. “You don't know how to bring salmon back up a dead stream. You don't know how to bring back an animal now extinct. And you can't bring back forests that once grew where there is now desert. If you don't know how to fix it, please stop breaking it!”

It was an intensely passionate, personal and provocative plea to the Rio delegates then, and it remains powerful even today in 2018.

Just as in the case of Greta in Poland, policy makers from around the world gave Severn a standing ovation. Then U.S. Vice President Al Gore told her she made the best speech at the summit.

At just 12 years of age, Severn was propelled onto the world stage, and became known as an environmental activist to watch.

Just as Greta, just 15, has been propelled to the world stage now and will remain the that stage for many years to come.

Today, Cullis-Suzuki might have some good advice for Greta, too.

 "After that Rio speech in 1992, I began to lead two lives, one being a kid and the other starting to speak internationally about the environment and advocating for social and environmental justice. So that [speech] had a really big impact on my life."

The video of Severn's Rio speech has been viewed more than 20 million times online, but ask her now if she was successful, the answer isn't easy.

"It's hard to gauge whether you've had an affect in changing people's awareness," she told a reporter. "I think now these many years later is a good time to ask 'have we been successful in changing the world to become more sustainable?' I think we have not."

Cullis-Suzuki says that more than two decades since she gave that speech in Rio, many of the world's environmental problems are worse. 

"Looking to at things now, we're looking for solutions, for a paradigm shift. That's what I want," she shares. "It didn't happen back then, we need it now."

As Greta Thunberg grows up into her late teens and early 20s and then moves into her 30s and 40s, she too will have time to look back and reflect on what she achieved and didn't achieve with her famous climate speech in Poland in 2018. In the future, Greta might become a novelist, a documentary film director, a TV reporter for Swedish news programs tracking climate issues. She will have plenty of things to say and we need to listen to her.

So two amazing climate activists who started out very young, one a Canadian dreamer, and the other a Swedish dreamer. If yuou have time, compare the online videos of their two separate speeches "to the adults in the room," first from 1992 and the second from 2018.


And then ask yourself this; will another young person, perhaps a girl or a boy, a person of color this time, someone from Africa or Asia or the Middle East or Alaska or Greenland or Taiwan take the world stage in the year 2045 and deliver another impassioned climate speech to the adults in the room? And will anyone be listening then?





In Swedish the term is ''instrumentaliserad'' (instrumentalized)

UPDATE:
''Dear Sir,
Thank you for sharing this blog link. Too much exposure to media coverage might not be so good for a 15 year old child. If her parents wrote her speech and asked her to go on stage, then this can be called instrumentalizing the child no matter how well intentioned they may be. If, however, Greta wrote this speech and wanted to read it herself, and the parents agreed, then this is not instrumentalizing.  At this point, I think the parents should not allow the media to run after Greta and  keep her away from journalists.
What do you think?
Happy Holdiays
S.



'' shows lets hope she won’t be (too much).''

another comment came in:

"No, I don't agree with this post. Greta is totally authentic.

''You seem to forget the harshness of our dilemma. Greta is just one of the billions to be sacrificed. 

''Very few humans are reacting to a global disaster now unfolding. 

''we need a million Gretas


''The media circus is a circus. Fun for about an hour, then tedious and a waste of effort. Media is angry with her since she is ruining the frenzied orgy of adult idiocy.''

''We have been so insulated until now... So our biggest challenge will be learning to witness suffering.''

[Notice that the letters of ''GRETA'' can also be re-arranged and spelled ''GREAT''!]

Now listen to this plea from a compassionate and empathetic adult who has been watching the media circus around Greta with concern and 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 "intrumentalizing" [instrumentaliserad] 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.

===============

Here is a comment that came in from a middle-aged woman in Canada, an academic pHD,  who didn't mince her words, writing: 

''Expressed with a false concern for protecting young girls, this editorial is blatantly sexist and ageist, patronizing in its tone of syrupy concern. Insinuating that Greta is not writing her own speeches is very familiar to those of us who heard the Taliban's malicious slander against Malala Yousafzai: they claimed that her father was writing her words because "a girl could never write" such powerful words in favor of girls' education. ''

''Now we have a Swedish girl speaking passionately and powerfully about her beliefs in justice, and the links between these two articulate girls (and their detractors) in terms of generational justice, gender justice, and climate justice cannot be overlooked.''

''If there's a church in Sweden that wants to compare Greta with Jesus, it does not concern me -- more important is the value of recognizing climate sexism, and making ensure that Greta and her timely message are not crucified by the media.''

==============================
UPDATE December 25, Chrismass Day 2018:

by staff write with agency:

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. Take 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. In December 2018, Greta made made global headlines for her impassioned speech to U.N. climate conference caught most of the adults there by surprise.

Greta, yes, addressed, inspired and challenged the U.N.'s recently-concluded climate summit in Poland  and she has increased pressure on climate issues through her world famous ''school strike against climate change'' outside the Swedish parliament building in Stockholm.

Three cheers for Greta Thunberg.

Now let's go back 25 years or so, to the global climate summit in Rio when a 12--year-old girl from Canada, Severn Suzuki, the daughter of Canadian climate activist David Suzuki, who also made an impassioned six-minute speech to the adults assembled there. Her short speech went viral, later went up on YouTube, and is still being watched in 2018 by thousands of people, young and old, on YouTube as we speak. She became a celebrity, went to Yale, married a Canadian Haida man, gave birth to two bi-cultural children and now in her 30s still remains active in global climate discussions.

At the age of 12, she silenced the world for six minutes at the first U.N. Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. Her married name is Severn Cullis-Suzuki, and she is active online on Twitter and other social media platforms.  As daughter of environmental guru David Suzuki, she caught the world's attention in 1992 and she later became an activist and environmentalist in her own right.

In 1992, Severn, just 12, addressed a room of delegates at the Rio conference, and left them all speechless.

"Our group of four Canadian kids felt it was important to go," Cullis-Suzuki says now, reflecting on what happened then, many years later. "We figured it was going to be mostly old men, sitting around, making decisions that are going to affect our future and the future generation. So we wanted to go as the conscience -- as a reminder to those decision makers, who their decisions would truly affect."

Like Greta Thunberg's speech in Poland, Severn's six-minute speech revealed her fears over the state of the environment, and her concerns for generations to come.

“You don't know how to fix the holes in our ozone layer,” she said in 1992 in Rio. “You don't know how to bring salmon back up a dead stream. You don't know how to bring back an animal now extinct. And you can't bring back forests that once grew where there is now desert. If you don't know how to fix it, please stop breaking it!”

It was an intensely passionate, personal and provocative plea to the Rio delegates then, and it remains powerful even today in 2018.

Just as in the case of Greta in Poland, policy makers from around the world gave Severn a standing ovation. Then U.S. Vice President Al Gore told her she made the best speech at the summit.

At just 12 years of age, Severn was propelled onto the world stage, and became known as an environmental activist to watch.

Just as Greta, just 15, has been propelled to the world stage now and will remain the that stage for many years to come.

Today, Cullis-Suzuki might have some good advice for Greta, too.

 "After that Rio speech in 1992, I began to lead two lives, one being a kid and the other starting to speak internationally about the environment and advocating for social and environmental justice. So that [speech] had a really big impact on my life."

The video of Severn's Rio speech has been viewed more than 20 million times online, but ask her now if she was successful, the answer isn't easy.

"It's hard to gauge whether you've had an affect in changing people's awareness," she told a reporter. "I think now these many years later is a good time to ask 'have we been successful in changing the world to become more sustainable?' I think we have not."

Cullis-Suzuki says that more than two decades since she gave that speech in Rio, many of the world's environmental problems are worse. 

"Looking to at things now, we're looking for solutions, for a paradigm shift. That's what I want," she shares. "It didn't happen back then, we need it now."

As Greta Thunberg grows up into her late teens and early 20s and then moves into her 30s and 40s, she too will have time to look back and reflect on what she achieved and didn't achieve with her famous climate speech in Poland in 2018. In the future, Greta might become a novelist, a documentary film director, a TV reporter for Swedish news programs tracking climate issues. She will have plenty of things to say and we need to listen to her.

So two amazing climate activists who started out very young, one a Canadian dreamer, and the other a Swedish dreamer. If you have time, compare the online videos of their two separate speeches "to the adults in the room," first from 1992 and the second from 2018.


And then ask yourself this; will another young person, perhaps a girl or a boy, a person of color this time, someone from Africa or Asia or the Middle East or Alaska or Greenland or Taiwan take the world stage in the year 2045 and deliver another impassioned climate speech to the adults in the room? And will anyone be listening then?

12 comments:

DANIELBLOOM said...

two comments came in so far via twitter, and both women said "NO! I don't agree with you!"

DANIELBLOOM said...

See @grassclaudio tweet about Greta being instrumentalized

DANIELBLOOM said...

ANINYMOUS -- ’’fair enough. It sounds like those adults are hearing the same worry from others? That’s about all anyone can do.’’

DANIELBLOOM said...

ANONYMOUS -- ''I just read up on this, had only heard part of her great speech. It’s a nuanced issue. Kids shouldn’t be exploited, of course, but she’s 15 as were some of the Parkland kids who spoke out after the mass shooting. And many of the kids suing the government in federal court in Oregon were much younger than 15 when they filed suit. https://www.ourchildrenstrust.org ''

''I’d need to know more about where Greta is on the spectrum to weigh in - but one theory about autism that makes sense to me is what she says - that it heightens empathy. So it’s quite believable that climate change makes her even sadder than it makes us.''

DANIELBLOOM said...

ANON -- ''Yes. Greta is great, I understand her. I love her. And yes her mild autism gives her deep empathy yes. ...what I worry about is media and climate activists exploiting her in well intentioned ways but maybe harmful to her and her important message. Already some media in Sweden and USA UK are comparing her to Rosa parks and Ghandi and even Jesus! I worry the adults around her might be "using" her for their own agendas. ''Instrumentalizing'' her. My new word of the day. I am not major worried, just tiny bit worried.''

DANIELBLOOM said...

Dear Friends -- May I pick your brain? I'm worried about Greta Thunberg 15. That adults and media and others are maybe perhaps sort of ''using'' her, ''instrunentalizing'' her and it might not be such a good thing if true.
She is not Masala. She is not Jesus. See my blog above and give me feedback pro and con. I value your empathy.

DANIELBLOOM said...

Dear Dan

Thank you for sharing this link. Too much exposure to media coverage might not be so good for a 15 year old child. If her parents wrote her speech and asked her to go on stage, then this can be called instrumentalizing the child no matter how well intentioned they may be. If, however, Greta wrote this speech and wanted to read it herself, and the parents agreed, then this is not instrumentalizing. At this point, I think the parents should not allow the media to run after Greta and keep her away from journalists.

What do you think?

Happy Holdiays

s.

DANIELBLOOM said...

Here is a comment that came in from a middle-aged woman in the Canada who didn't mince her words, writing:

''Expressed with a false concern for protecting young girls, this editorial is blatantly sexist and ageist, patronizing in its tone of syrupy concern. Insinuating that Greta is not writing her own speeches is very familiar to those of us who heard the Taliban's malicious slander against Malala Yousafzai: they claimed that her father was writing her words because "a girl could never write" such powerful words in favor of girls' education. ''

''Now we have a Swedish girl speaking passionately and powerfully about her beliefs in justice, and the links between these two articulate girls (and their detractors) in terms of generational justice, gender justice, and climate justice cannot be overlooked.''

''If there's a church in Sweden that wants to compare Greta with Jesus, it does not concern me -- more important is the value of recognizing climate sexism, and making ensure that Greta and her timely message are not crucified by the media.''

DANIELBLOOM said...

Chris Kerndter in Germany wrote:


''Greta Thunberg shows leadership, lets hope she won’t be instrumentalized (too much).''

DANIELBLOOM said...

Claudio Grass tweeted:

''You Are Stealing Our Future: Greta Thunberg, 15, Condemns the World’s In...'' https://youtu.be/HzeekxtyFOY via @YouTube

He added: ''whenever kids are instrumentalized think about examples in history such as this one''--- ''First Gulf War: Kuwaiti Ambassador Daughter's Testimony'' - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p_gbLZlRiA0&feature=youtu.be

DANIELBLOOM said...

LIMATE AND JUSTICE
Greta Thunberg is right when she says that we cannot save the world by following the rules. But what rules do we have to break?
Before and during the UN climate meeting in Katowice, the Swedish 15-year-old Greta Thunberg was the clearest star. In August this year, she began a school strike for the climate outside the Riksdag every Friday and quickly became an icon for the Western world's climate activists. In Sweden and several other countries, people follow her example with school strikes and protests outside parliamentary assemblies.

In social media she has been compared to both Gandhi and Jesus. Many want to bask in the shine with selfies and hashtag #backagreta.

Elisa strikes for the climate - "The adults must listen to us!"
At the UN meeting in Katowice, Greta Thunberg was especially invited to hold speeches before the world's leaders. She said she will not ask them anything because the emissions only increase despite the issue being discussed for 25 years. Instead, she wants everyone else to realize that the world's leaders have let us down. And that the media should start treating the climate crisis as a crisis. "We can no longer save the world by following the rules."

So what rules are we to violate?

Greta Thunberg is the daughter of the opera singer Marlena Ernman and thus growing up in a safe middle class with cultural capital. The daughter's involvement has made the whole family change their lifestyle. Everyone has completely stopped flying, which meant that Ernman had to renounce his career. The daughter gets shot at climate meetings and talk assignments in the family's own electric car.

In Katowice, Greta Thunberg talks about the important fairness aspect of the climate crisis. Rich countries must drive development and allow poor countries to catch up with their infrastructure. "We who already have everything" must take responsibility.

GRETA THUNBERG HAS RIGHT WHEN SHE SAYS THAT THE CLIMATE CRISIS SOLUTION IS THAT WE BEGIN TO BREACH THE RULES.

The justice problem is thus between poor and rich countries. From Greta Thunberg's horizon, the claim that we in Sweden already "have everything" is understandable and reasonable. But for many other people a blow to the face. What is it for poor pensioners, overcrowded suburban youths or rural unemployed to refrain from saving the climate?

Greta Thunberg is right when she says that the solution of the climate crisis is that we are breaking the rules. As long as society is organized so that a small number of people in the ownership class can put the world under their feet and go over bodies to increase their profits, we are without chance. The only thing that can save us is a society and an economy that is planned based on people's basic needs.

The situation is serious - but there is hope
Many who engage in climate issues find that constant growth is impossible. But very few point out that constant growth is one of the basic conditions for our current social system.

So all you politicians and professionals who sunbathe are in the brilliance of Greta Thunberg: Are you prepared to become anti-capitalists? Or is your support about getting likes on social media and building your own brand?

DANIELBLOOM said...

"Come to think of it, both Greta and Severn were daughters of famous media VIP celebrities in Canada and Sweden. If either girl was just the outspoken plain daughter of working class parents with no media connections or PR team behind her, she would never have made international headlines and become media stars. Both girls were used and instrumentalized by their parents and their home countries to get headlines and photo opps and CNN interviews. If they didn't have famous parents we wouldn't be talking about then here or anywhere. And their speeches will not produce any results. This is all a media circus, a VIP celebrity game, nonsense. Yes Severn had a nice career after Rio, and Greta will also have a stellar career in Sweden. But nothing will change. This is just hot air sweet words blowing in the wind. Once again we have been mislead by the media to believe in replacements for Jesus. Nonsense. Nothing will come of Greta. She will be a has been in ten years time, a relic of 2018 / 2019. " said a new comment to this blog on Xmas day.