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Greta Thunberg UN speech #HowDareYou
Via Instagram @gretathunberg

#HowDareYou: Greta Thunberg refuses to make world leaders comfortable

The teen climate activist’s UN speech – seemingly mocked by Donald Trump – is difficult to watch, and that’s exactly what the climate crisis needs

“This is all wrong. I shouldn’t be up here,” began Greta Thunberg yesterday. “I should be back in school on the other side of the ocean. Yet you all come to us young people for hope. How dare you.”

Speaking with passion and emotion at yesterday’s UN climate summit, the teen activist once again proved herself to be more eloquent, more astute, and more informed than world leaders three times her age.

She refused to crack a smile when the audience laughed at what wasn’t intended as a joke – “My message is that we will be watching you” – and broke down as she told the summit, “You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words”. Thunberg’s refusal to prioritise the comfort of her viewers is a reflection of her rousing fortitude, and exactly the reason so many right-wing trolls are scared of her

Following her speech, infantile baby and president Donald Trump tweeted: “She seems like a very happy young girl looking forward to a bright and wonderful future. So nice to see!” While the president is clearly intending to be antagonising, his tweet also prods at the product of wider societal attitudes of women’s expected emotional state – muted, smiling compliance.

From ‘resting bitch face’ to “cheer up, love” – the sentence that sends red hot flames through my frontal cortex – women are consistently chastised for any display of negative emotion. An expression of anger is derided as an immature overreaction – or if you’re Michael from Love Island, it’s “chaldish” – while questioning lies and misinformation is marred by collective, society-wide gaslighting, and crying is seen as sensitive and weak.

By rejecting these fallacious stereotypes, and confidently and visibly expressing her feelings, Thunberg proves that no amount of unfounded, terrified criticism will ever lead her to change her behaviour and pander to expectations. She refuses to answer to world leaders, who should instead be answering to her. Thuberg’s speech is rightly difficult to watch – viewers need to feel uneasy in order to understand the urgency, and fathom what the teen has given up in order to preserve her future. As the 16-year-old has previously said: “I want you to feel the fear I feel everyday, and then I want you to act. I want you to act as if the house is one fire, because it is.” What’s the point in Thunberg making boomers feel comfortable when we’re all going to die

“People are suffering,” she asserted yesterday. “People are dying. Entire ecosystems are collapsing. We are in the beginning of a mass extinction, and all you can talk about is money and fairytales of eternal economic growth. How dare you.”

“Thuberg’s speech is rightly difficult to watch – viewers need to feel uneasy in order to understand the urgency, and fathom what the teen has given up in order to preserve her future”

Her power lies in her youthful resilience – she refers to her Asperger’s as her “superpower” too, one that lets her be direct and forthright about her ideas in how Asperger’s presents. Her Asperger’s has been used as a weapon by the right, with one Fox News pundit calling her “mentally ill”.

Just days after millions of young people led the Global Climate Strike, Thunberg proves the youth are still the only ones paying attention, and her frustration is evident in her most recent speech. “You say you hear us and that you understand the urgency,” she told the summit, “but no matter how sad and angry I am, I do not want to believe that. If you really understood the situation and kept on failing to act, then you would be evil, and that I refuse to believe.”

As right-wing critics hide behind their keyboards or use their huge, biaised television platforms to berate her speech, it’s evident that the activist’s unwillingness to alleviate tension is working. Scientists have hit us with the cold, hard, empirical facts about the climate emergency, and Thunberg’s passion only serves to elevate its urgency. Adults are scared of her power, and that’s exactly what the climate crisis needs.