We Don't Accept These Odds
June 28, 2020 8:30 AM   Subscribe

We don’t accept these odds. That was Greta Thunberg’s principal message while speaking before the General Assembly of the United Nations last year. It referred to the remaining CO2-budget of humanity. But the only message that seems to have resonated is 'how dare you', she says in the beginning of her Program, Summer on P1, a well-known Swedish Radio Show. After her speech, Greta and her father travel through 37 states in total.

Greta Thunberg and Sveriges Radio (Swedish Radio) have provided an English version as well as a Swedish version of Thunberg's audio essay, which was aired on Midsommar day. The English version (75 minutes) does not include the music from the Swedish original (about 90 minutes). It does include stories about how odd it was to walk into the UN building in September 2019 and to see her dog, Roxy; homesickness; going into a store that has 40 types of coffee beverages and then trying to count all the different types of soda and stopping unfinished, at 200; the mountain pine beetle; the devastating fire in Paradise, California; the price that the poor and the marginalised are paying and will pay for the climate crisis; and much more.

At close to 8 minutes in, Greta recalls a meeting with other young climate activists, primarily representatives of Indigenous peoples from North and South America, in the office of Nancy Pelosi, the US Speaker of the House. On the wall hangs a large portrait of Abraham Lincoln. "The atmosphere during the meeting was awkward, at best," she notes. "It is as if two entirely different worlds collide. Worlds separated by hundreds of years of injustices, oppression, and genocide." Tokata Iron Eyes, who lives on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, asks Pelosi how she thinks it feels for them to look at that portrait. "He wanted my people dead. He was responsible for the biggest mass execution in US history."

This may sound grim but I found it refreshing, honest, heartfelt and surprisingly (to me) inspirational. Stay away if talk of climate crisis is problematic. Otherwise, enjoy hearing someone on the right side of history tell of being forced to make small talk ("as I have learned to") and being subjected to a line of officials, including Angela Merkel, determined to get a selfie with Thunberg for their social media platforms.
posted by Bella Donna (12 comments total) 29 users marked this as a favorite
People were/are happier discussing Thunberg as a personality/tone argument rather than the points being made. It is both more comforting as a way to avoid the fear of alterations to the status quo and accessible even to the extremely intellectually limited.

Like Cassandra, she's getting a kicking.
posted by jaduncan at 8:38 AM on June 28 [8 favorites]

Yeah, she talks about how disappointing she is to media folks (she gives an example of a Swedish journalist without using his name) who interview her with a narrative in mind about her as a naive young thing, etc. When she testified before Congress last year, Thunberg did not provide written testimony. Instead she submitted a report (a bit before minute 25) as her testimony and explained that she did not want people to listen to her, she wanted people to listen to scientists.

You are entirely right that many want to make Thunberg into some kind of mascot or non-threat. She's not having it.
posted by Bella Donna at 8:56 AM on June 28 [16 favorites]

I love her so much.
posted by Gadarene at 9:45 AM on June 28 [6 favorites]

I'm glad Greta is making waves again. This spring gave her a much-needed pause, hopefully she's recharged her batteries and ready to keep fighting.
I've seen her around town a few times and she really is a bitty thing. Her assured and measured tone and her professional handling of the media is truly impressive. It is reassuring that she has the support of her savvy family to help her navigate the crap she's been put through.
posted by St. Oops at 1:31 PM on June 28 [2 favorites]

mp3 here; also available on Spotify; the apt title is “Humanity has not yet failed us.

Her gift for clarity and turn of phrase, combined with her deep moral compass really do make for exceptional listening/reading pretty much every time. It’s fascinating to watch her being consistently underestimated at every step of her mission. Very few people seem equipped to take in just how uncompromising (and revolutionary) her outlook really is...
posted by progosk at 3:07 PM on June 28 [3 favorites]

At this point the Greta Thunberg phenomenon is a touchstone for evaluating so many aspects of our society and political system. I'll just comment about one thing here which is the phenomenon of the Two Cultures as per C.P. Snow. It's a thing, and Greta Thunberg proves it.

We have one side of the political aisle that admires her for the courage to step forward for this moment despite being young, female and an aspie, and one side that denounces her impudence for stepping forward for this moment despite being young, female, and an aspie, and so many bytes going back and forth about the semiotics of Greta Thunberg, and hardly anyone notices that she is representing 150 years of work into understanding the Terran atmosphere, and the only legitimate reason to support her or oppose her is the content of that work.

If you are, like me, and like Greta Thunberg, on the nerd side of the Two Cultures divide, you might read her speeches, and read the IPCC 2018 report that she bases her speeches on, and it will be very clear to you that she hs read the front matter carefully, and that our leaders have not. What's more, having done this I can also point out that GT is good at translating dense technical reading into prose at an 8th grade reading level, without butchering it in the process. On the contrary, she is aspie-pedantic about getting the technical details right and not letting semantics be her downfall. The media, meanwhile, takes Greta Thunberg's comments and turn them into a dog's breakfast because everyone has to be the first to tweet about it every time she speaks.

A more mundane aspect of the Two Cultures is simply that some of us spend our lives in a world where aspies are as common as crickets, and she really doesn't stand out. It's unnerving to see the response she provokes among some people just by being herself in front of a microphone. She could walk down the Infinite Corridor at MIT and nobody would even notice. I've been tracking her career for a while now, like just about every other parent of an autistic child, and that response makes me wonder if I should tell my son to stay in Boston and never ever go on the outer side of Rt. 128.

I can say she's a touchstone for so many other topics, but I'll leave it at this for tonight: we have Two Cultures. It's a thing. It's a bad thing. And I'm not sure what to do about it.
posted by ocschwar at 8:45 PM on June 28 [11 favorites]

By way of direct involvement with the movement inspired by Thunberg, I can confirm that one of its mainstays (and at the same time one of its most laborious tasks) is to bring into focus the “simple truths” that climate science has let emerge. (For example, how best to visualize the carbon budget, given its potency as a roadmap/diagnosis.) I was unfamiliar with Snow’s thesis, but having had a brief look, I would try to steer clear of its fatalistic framing. Two ways to do that: one is following Thunberg’s own focus on climate justice, so a framing that goes beyond the mere science (and, perhaps the component that is the actual bone of contention, and deeper reason for a lot of the blowback); another would be by reading into Bruno Latour’s recent reframing of the planetary endeavor that science itself needs to situate its role in.
posted by progosk at 3:34 AM on June 29 [2 favorites]

Yeah, she talks about how disappointing she is to media folks (she gives an example of a Swedish journalist without using his name) who interview her with a narrative in mind about her as a naive young thing, etc.

The hardest people to figure out are the ones who have to be taken at their word.
posted by ocschwar at 1:24 PM on June 29 [1 favorite]

I'm glad Greta is making waves again. This spring gave her a much-needed pause, hopefully she's recharged her batteries and ready to keep fighting.

You think she will? Her gymnasiet starts in Augist, and I was under the impression she intends to return to private life at that point.
posted by ocschwar at 9:51 PM on June 30

I think Thunberg has had more than her share of death threats and patronising bullshit for now and, maybe, forever. A lot more people, myself included, need to step up and join the struggle for a greener, less racist (less fill-in-the-blank), and healthier planet.
posted by Bella Donna at 1:09 AM on July 1 [3 favorites]

Even without the death threats and other vileness, you can tell that GT was enduring the limelight for the same of a cause, not enjoying it. She took one for the team for two years. The rest of us need to step up.
posted by ocschwar at 6:50 AM on July 1 [4 favorites]

Not sure anyone is still reading this thread, but I'll unload here because I need to unload somewhere.

There's a gif circulating showing how the corona virus spread simply by the number of cases in each country, showing only the top 8. Vietnam spends a lot of time represented by the gif, one account of 16 cases, and then drops out. At the end the top 3 countries are the US, Brazil, and Russia.

There's something the top 3 have in common. President Trump got into twitter spat with Greta Thunberg. And lost. Instantly. Twice.

Brazil's Bolsonaro called her a brat.

And Putin remarked about her with something that sounds too creepily like "You're daughter's nice, Mr. Thunberg. Shame if something were to happen to her."

And now all three countries are struggling with the pandemic. One might take the glib takeaway of "don't mess with Greta Thunberg." Or there's the more serious issue: if your head of state reacts this way to one nerd talking about something difficult, he'll react this way to ANY nerd talking about something difficult. "As with Greta, so also with Fauci."
posted by ocschwar at 10:07 PM on July 3 [2 favorites]

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