Our community, the business community, has a responsibility to make a difference. We’ve made the mess our planet is in. We need to fix it. But, as Bob would ask, “Can we?”. I am not sure I share the yellow-helmeted optimism of Sunflower Valley’s most can-do inhabitant.
That’s more than enough to be uneasy about. But there’s more. So maybe, actually, I am angry.
I am angry because those that we elect to take care of us don’t seem to give a shit. And the shit they do seem to give is directed at a 16-year-old girl who’s doing much more than her bit to save the world.
Here’s a teen who one day decided to strike from school and it caught on. And not because everyone wanted a day off (well, maybe some did) but because they really do care. Children care. I’ve worked with them all my life, I know loads and even have a couple that I keep in the house. And in the emancipated world of social media, the empowered voice of the child is being heard more loudly and vigorously than at any point in the history of Homo Sapiens. And I think that is just bloody marvellous.
But this particular teen happens to have a superpower. A superpower that THE Super Powers don’t understand and find it easier to patronise than to listen…. but when Orange 45 and his wingman Putin thought they’d have a pop at her in the media, she put them firmly back in their playpens by simply changing her Twitter Bio to their comments about her.
Greta’s superpower, Asperger syndrome, seems to have become a stick to beat her with, to ridicule and objectify her as an oddity, and to suggest that her pleas are the rantings of a “spoilt teen”. And in some ways that isn't at all surprising; despite its prevalence, few people take the time to understand what the world must be like with this kind of autism. And yet we are told that one in 45 children in the USA in 2019 will be diagnosed with some form of autism.
I have a limited but professional knowledge of Asperger Syndrome gained when a teaching practitioner, and maintained as a school governor. People with Asperger syndrome often need extra time to process information, they don’t find it overly easy to socialise and often experience acute anxiety in social situations. They find unexpected changes to situations or environments bring on that anxiety, and noise, smells and bright lights can be incredibly distressing.
Why would Greta Thunberg put herself in that position on purpose? She could only do what she is doing and work through huge personal difficulty if she truly believed. And she does. And that, if nothing else, is good enough reason for the likes of Trump and Putin to believe in her too. But she’s not even asking for that, is she? No, she just wants them to listen to the science. They only believe in power, money and oil...three things this little 16-year-old Swede is making us all think a little harder about.
And no matter how hard her middle-aged, invariably white, but not always male, detractors swear at her through Twitter, I reckon she’s going to have the last laugh because she is having a massive effect that we are only just starting to see emerge….
We were once commissioned to evaluate the effectiveness of a water utility’s water-saving education programme. It was very effective. But not for the reasons they thought. It was effective because the children had been told about the effects of wasting water on the whole environment and it was the children who scolded the parents for leaving the tap running. And it was being scolded by their children that modified adult behaviour.
We know that business won’t change until the demand to do so comes from consumers. So, my point is this: what Greta has done is begun to shift the super-tanker that is consumerism. She has got in the wheelhouse, pulled hard to port and now the momentum, if we allow it, will turn this bloody mess we’re in 360. And if we are lucky, and if we support each other, and if we listen to the children, we might, just might, save our planet.
So the next time a child says to you, please turn out the lights or turn off the tap, know that it is their world, not ours, and they deserve to be listened to.
Make the World Great Again. Or as someone funny painted on a door at the end of my road: