Column: Why Greta Thunberg has already made her mark

Climate change protests in Glasgow inspired by Greta Thunberg (Pic: John Devlin)
Climate change protests in Glasgow inspired by Greta Thunberg (Pic: John Devlin)

I’m starting to warm to Greta Thunberg - if that isn’t an inappropriate way to describe a climate change campaigner.

At 16 she is inspiring a global movement to force politicians and governments into more action.

She started out as a one-girl protest, sitting outside the Swedish parliament every day rather than going to school.

Now she travels the world giving speeches, writing articles, and meeting the great and the good who all seem utterly clueless how to respond.

Sure it’s all a bit Forrest Gump – you can visualise the movie which will almost certainly follow, right down to the closing credits, and her story reads like that of a quirky novel.

Her Aspergers means she sees things in a very black and white manner and, when dealing with the highly complex issue of climate change, maybe that isn’t a bad thing.

Grand commitments from politicians tend to be high in rhetoric and minimal in detail. Just the way they like it.

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Thunberg may be gone before the start of next term, or she may go on to be a leading voice on climate change for many years.

In some respects it doesn’t matter. She has already succeeded.

She has done more than most of the witless, self-serving politicians we are currently lumbered with.

Her one-girl protest outside the Swedish parliament snowballed, and led to 1.4 million schoolchildren walking out of classes to stage their own demos.

They found their voice, and the grown-ups – headteachers, cooncillors, MPs, newspaper columnists - didn’t really know how to react.

I have no doubt a good a number of kids just fancied the idea of an afternoon out of class rather than harbouring a burning passion to change the world – at 16, my best maths classes were in a snooker hall in Corstorphine where I had to work out the angles to get out of a tricky position behind the blue.

However this ends, Thunberg has made her mark.

Perhaps her real challenge will be to avoiding being swamped by the Extinction Rebellion movement which is now in full throttle.

If she is smart, and she clearly is, she will let it blow itself out – like all passing bandwagons it will, because we have the attention span of goldfish – and then continue to focus on her work.

Extinction Rebellion seems to have discovered glue as the latest weapon against big business. Protestors have glued themselves to trains, buildings, doors and, in one bizarre case, a woman glued her breasts to the road outside the Goldman Sachs office. Yup, that’ll tell ‘em...

In Waitrose they staged a mass ‘die-in’ – possibly the most middle class demo you will ever see.

If change is really going to happen, it will be thanks to folk like Thunberg rather than a bunch of dafties lying down in the aisle next to where they stock the quinoa.

They’ll soon drift away as momentum splutters. That’s when we may see, and hear, much more from a young kid from Sweden – with a neat line in straight talking.