Unless you've been living under a rock for the past year, you know who Greta Thunberg is. But depending on your chosen media and information outlets, what think you know about her might be totally false.
I've perused comments on articles about Thunberg's climate change activism and have seen the same false statements about her over and over again. Here are some actual cut-and-pasted comments (misspellings included) from just one article in the past week:
"She is one hell of an actress."
"Greta has mental issues and the adults around her are manipulating her for their own gain."
"This is nothing more than a kid being coached fir a acting career! Lol such a democrat trick!"
"I feel sorry for this girl who is really a victim of child abuse. Who scares their children with all this propaganda?"
"Her parents got 18million for being on TV to say what she said."
"It's not real. That little girl is corporate sponsored."
You get the gist.
Thunberg took to Twitter recently to briefly address her critics, saying they "come up with every thinkable lie and conspiracy theory" and that they "will cross every possible line to avert the focus, since they are so desperate not to talk about the climate and ecological crisis."
"Being different is not an illness and the current, best available science is not opinions," she aded, "it's facts."
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It seems they will cross every possible line to avert the focus, since they are so desperate not to talk about the climate and ecological crisis.
Being different is not an illness and the current, best available science is not opinions - it's facts. ->
— Greta Thunberg (@GretaThunberg) September 25, 2019
But don't waste your time giving them any more attention.
The world is waking up. Change is coming wether they like it or not.
See you in the streets this Friday!#fridaysforfuture#schoolstrike4climate#climatestrike#aspiepower
— Greta Thunberg (@GretaThunberg) September 25, 2019
Facts appear to elude many, however. I am constantly baffled by how people will repeat things they hear, or state what they think is probably true, without putting forth any effort to discover the truth. This is especially the case for what people think they know about Greta Thunberg.
It's not that hard to research her. Thunberg made the news in Sweden long before she became a globally recognized activist. There are many news articles about her school strike and how she ended up where she is now.
What's extra maddening is that Thunberg herself addressed all of the rumors about her and explained her history way back in February on Facebook, and yet people continue to spew the same falsehoods. The fact that a 16-year-old has to correct adults who should know how to research is sad, but here we are.
First, she explained the origins of how her school strike came about, starting with how she'd won a writing contest about the environment and then had some phone conversations with other activists. They were focusing on other efforts, and Thunberg decided to do her school strike alone. Her parents weren't happy about it and told her at that time that they weren't supportive.
"On the 20 of August I sat down outside the Swedish Parliament," she wrote. "I handed out fliers with a long list of facts about the climate crisis and explanations on why I was striking. The first thing I did was to post on Twitter and Instagram what I was doing and it soon went viral. Then journalists and newspapers started to come. A Swedish entrepreneur and business man active in the climate movement, Ingmar Rentzhog, was among the first to arrive. He spoke with me and took pictures that he posted on Facebook. That was the first time I had ever met or spoken with him. I had not communicated or encountered with him ever before."
She then addressed the rumors about who is "behind" her outspoken activism:
"Many people love to spread rumors saying that I have people 'behind me' or that I'm being 'paid' or 'used' to do what I'm doing. But there is no one 'behind' me except for myself. My parents were as far from climate activists as possible before I made them aware of the situation.
I am not part of any organization. I sometimes support and cooperate with several NGOs that work with the climate and environment. But I am absolutely independent and I only represent myself. And I do what I do completely for free, I have not received any money or any promise of future payments in any form at all. And nor has anyone linked to me or my family done so.
And of course it will stay this way. I have not met one single climate activist who is fighting for the climate for money. That idea is completely absurd.
Furthermore I only travel with permission from my school and my parents pay for tickets and accommodations.
Thunberg went on to explain how she wants people to treat climate change as a crisis because it is a crisis, and that she's really not saying anything new. This is what scientists have been telling us for decades.
"There is one other argument that I can't do anything about," she wrote, "And that is the fact that I'm 'just a child and we shouldn't be listening to children.' But that is easily fixed—just start to listen to the rock solid science instead. Because if everyone listened to the scientists and the facts that I constantly refer to—then no one would have to listen to me or any of the other hundreds of thousands of school children on strike for the climate across the world. Then we could all go back to school."
Thunberg also pointed people to her TED Talk in which she explains how her interest in the climate began:
Her own school principal, Sirkka Persson, commented on her Facebook post, writing:
"Greta, being your Principal at school I do not doubt you are writing your own speeches.
All the things you write about in this poster I also get questions about. People often judge others out of their own behavior. So many rumors and so many people who do not know you or your family who think they know how things are and what is best for you. Embarrassing...
Each day I see you at school you give hope and strength to others. You affect people and have an impact on their way of thinking and behaviour. You have definately [sic] got me thinking new thoughts. That is admirable."
If people want to argue with the solutions that Thunberg puts forth, that's fine. She's chosen to speak publicly, and her ideas are up for debate. What is not up for debate are the verifiable facts about her history. What's not up for debate is the fact that being on the autism spectrum is not a mental illness. What is not up for debate is the fact that the vast majority of scientists and the world's most renowned professional scientific organizations have all said that climate change is happening, that humans are contributing to faster-than-normal global warming, and that if we don't act to mitigate it, we will face disastrous consequences.
And obviously, the personal attacks need to stop. It's unacceptable for anyone at any age, but to disparage the looks or