Greta Thunberg is clearly a bright and committed climate change campaigner. She is also a teenager with Asperger’s. And the fact that grown-up men, media types, find the need to vilify her says far more about their maturity than it does about hers.
Thunberg’s school strike, which has taken place every Friday in her home town of Stockholm since last August, has spawned a global movement with millions of followers and she has become its diminutive superstar.
Climate change has long been an issue in search of an inspiring leader. Politicians, actors, scientists, broadcasters and academics have all taken up the mantle but no one has quite captured the spirit of what is happening to our planet quite like this young woman who embodies the fears of the future generation. She said as much when she took the train to Britain last week.
Yet the response from commentators has been to mock the way she speaks and belittle her for simply being a little girl trying to tell adults what to do.
Shame on them.
She is derided as a manipulated fool, dismissed as a child who knows nothing, ironically told to grow up by adults who have ignored the facts that tell them that what they are doing to the environment is wrong.
This complex, shy young woman became so distressed by the impact of climate change that she sunk into depression at the age of 11, felt suicidal at 12, had eating disorders in her early teens, and then funnelled all that angst into a personal campaign to save the planet.
As a mother, I want to put my arms around her and lift that heavy burden from her little shoulders but, in truth, I am thankful my child’s generation should have her as a role model.
She has busted the myth that young people don’t care about politics. And in Scotland, where we know 16-year-olds are capable of political thought because we gave them the vote, she has confirmed that we did the right thing.
Young people are leading the way in the fight against the devastating consequences of manmade problems because they know the future of their generation depends on it.
The likes of Thunberg and the journalist, Lyra McKee, whose young life was so brutally ended by the New IRA, deserve our thanks for cutting across tribal lines, offering a clarity of thought and a sharp shock of sense.
McKee used words as her weapon. And, as Father Martin Magill expressed so powerfully at her funeral service, she has done more in death to unite her fractured homeland than politicians are doing in life.
Thunberg is on the autistic spectrum. She has obsessive compulsive disorder and selective mutism, which means she only speaks when necessary.
And in that there is a lesson for those verbose, overpaid, overrated columnists like Toby Young who demands the Swedish teenager be “called out”, or Brendan O’Neill who described her as a “millenarian weirdo.” Sometimes less is, most definitely, more.