I have been watching a year in the life of Greta Thunberg on the BBC’s Open University programs, what an eye-opener, these programmes are, and if you have missed any of it I believe it can be found on i-player.
When I first saw this dour wee lass, sitting outside the Swedish Parliament in August 2008, demonstrating “her school strike for the climate”
my first thoughts were possible, she could do with a good feed. However, what feeding she may, or not, have neglected on her body, she certainly has not been neglecting her brain.
Greta Thunberg has now become a household name attracting international attention since her lone demonstration. That demonstration has grown experientially and has bought more than 10 million people onto the streets worldwide to demand action on climate change.
But has Greta Thunberg’s speeches been other than preaching to the converted?
Have the people that mater, those that can make the changes to reduce global warming, are they really listening, or simply using the bandwagon of Greta Thunberg to make worthless pledges, scoring brownie points for that up and coming election?
What I believe is different in the Greta Thunberg story is how she stands alone. Greta is not part of a highly efficient large organisation, funded by big business of taxpayer’s dollars, and that strikes a cord with people who may have thought that climate change was too big and could only be tackled at the highest level. However, seeing this frail little girl, standing on a box so that she may be seen over the podium by her audience, they too can feel, if this little girl can do something about climate change, then maybe I can too. No one is too small to make a difference, and the school children she was speaking to outside the Swedish Parliament that day in 2008, are now 13 years older, they will be well educated, have continued their education at colleges and universities across the world, and still with Greta’s inspirational word ringing in their ears.
I was in the dressing room of a rugby club and the coach had written on the white board.
“It takes only one inspired player to lift the rest of the team to victory”.
I grew up in Fife where ‘old king coal’ had reined for centuries, I lived in a village where every household had a coal fire, and in quiet weather condition in the 1950s would see a cloud of smoke hanging over the village. And in London that shroud would be so thick as to descend as smog. Eventually, the clean air act was passed in parliament.
Later in life, I worked at the Westfield Open Cast mine for a time,
it was then the biggest hole in Europe, and producing more coal, than all the deep coal mines in Fife combined. Coal was the heartbeat of the nation.
I watched Greta on her journey to the Turow coal mine in Poland, a mere 80 km east of Dresden (Germany). Westfield, pails into insignificance, a hobby pit, in comparison with Turow. 8 miles across and estimated 760 million tonnes of coal reserves,
Turow, produces around 27.7 million tonnes annually and still in full production to this day.
Lignite was found near Turasow in 1740 and between 1836 and 1869 more than 70 shafts were sunk, and in 1904 the owners formed themselves into a joint-stock company called Hercules. three years later Hercules started strip mining. Following on from the Second World War in 1947 Poland took the mine over from the Russian military administration (KWB). The mines license was set to expire in April 2020, but in March of that year, the Polish government extended it by another six years. The company that operates the site (PGE Group) wishes for that license to be extended for a further term right up until 2044.
Greta also visited England and the Drax power station, less than 7 miles south of Selby.
She was there to see CCAS (carbon capture and storage) in operation, which is just an expensive PR exercise. Under David Cameron’s government, a million pounds was offered to research CCAS, there were two contenders for the money both in Scotland so the money was withdrawn. However, a small unit was set up at Longannet power station, here in Fife. Basically, chemicals are used to separate out the carbon dioxide gas from the other gasses, before they go up the chimney, the carbon gas will be pressurised and pumped into old oil wells deep under the North Sea where it would be held in captivity by the pressures down there. The costs were high and a full working model (piping the gas down into the seabed) was never built, when Longannet closed the experimental plant was shipped down to Drax, where it is still a very expensive experiment. Since no government in the UK have any real plan for how to replace Drax (these plans are now left to private enterprise since Maggie Thatcher’s government gave away the power stations and national grid), so Drax will continue to spew its carbon dioxide laden fumes into the atmosphere. But since this was a film made for the OU (open university) I suppose Greta had to make the journey to see it.
What came over very clearly in the films I watched was that Greta Thunberg’s actions are consistent with her words. Her fiery demands to world leaders, at the UN or at the US Congress demonstrated that anyone can – and should – challenge powerful institutions and people.
This brings me to ask,
“How can I be sure that what I see is a reflection of Greta Thunberg’s own effect and not the influence of the many climate activists around the word?”
This is a question that can not be answered definitively, there are many things that could explain why people are taking action on climate change. But you can not dismiss that being familiar with Greta Thunberg appears to have a unique influence on the extent to which people are empowered to make that change.
To me, the Greta effect has a remarkable similarity to the run-up to the 2014 Scottish referendum on independence, it appealed to people across the political spectrum, that shared identity with the wider public. The Greta Thunberg effect suggests that calls to action may be able to mobilise broad segments of society, regardless of age or politics.