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Thunberg has made global headlines in recent months, through her efforts, which include encouraging students to attend demonstrations demanding political action on climate change while ‘on strike’ from school. Her influence has spread beyond her native Sweden throughout Europe and beyond. She has been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize and won the first Prix Liberté award.
As her profile has grown, so has some of the criticism she has encountered, with some commentators claiming she is being paid to campaign, or that she is a puppet being used to push an agenda – all claims she has denied.
Much of the criticism appears to have come from a blog posted by the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF) – a think tanks on global warming policy issues, which takes climate change skeptical position, saying ‘climate science and climate policies are faced by rising doubt and criticism’.
Earlier this year, the GWPF shared a piece titled Greta Thunberg: climate figurehead or PR puppet?
“[There are] more and more doubts about the ‘story’ of the climate girl from Sweden,” the piece states. “The right-wing Swiss magazine Weltwoche published a widely shared article entitled We’re Making a Climate Icon. The article claims that ‘their success is largely down to the Swedish PR expert Ingmar Rentzhog, who has good contacts in several propaganda organizations’.
“As evidence, Weltwoche reveals that shortly after Greta began her school strikes, her mother, a well-known opera singer, published a book. On the day of the book’s release, PR man Rentzhog published a picture of Greta on [school] strike on Instagram and published an article about her on Facebook. This triggered a ‘chain reaction’ in the media.”
The teen made headlines with with COP24 speech last year
‘Grown-ups who lie about me’
Now Thunberg had addressed some of these claims in a Facebook post of her own, saying that ‘rumors, lies and constant leaving out of well-established facts’ continue to circulate, adding that she wants to ‘communicate this to the grown-ups who lie about me and family’.
“Recently I’ve seen many rumors circulating about me and enormous amounts of hate,” she wrote. “This is no surprise to me. I know that since most people are not aware of the full meaning of the climate crisis (which is understandable since it has never been treated as a crisis) a school strike for the climate would seem very strange to people in general.
So let me make some things clear about my school strike.
“In May 2018 I was one of the winners in a writing competition about the environment held by Svenska Dagbladet, a Swedish newspaper. I got my article published and some people contacted me, among others was Bo Thorén from Fossil Free Dalsland. He had some kind of group with people, especially youth, who wanted to do something about the climate crisis. I had a few phone meetings with other activists.
“The purpose was to come up with ideas of new projects that would bring attention to the climate crisis. Bo had a few ideas of things we could do. Everything from marches to a loose idea of some kind of a school strike (that school children would do something on the schoolyards or in the classrooms). That idea was inspired by the Parkland Students, who had refused to go to school after the school shootings.”
She explains how she came up with the idea of going on a school strike, but said no-one else was really interested, so she did it herself, without the support of her parents who also did not like the idea.
Thunberg sat outside the Swedish Parliament on August 20 last year, handing out fliers with a long list of facts about the climate crisis and explanations on why she was striking. When she posted about it on Twitter, it went viral, and journalists came to speak to her.
“Many people love to spread rumors saying that I have people ‘behind me’ or that I’m being ‘paid’ or ‘used’ to do what I’m doing,” she said. “But there is no one ‘behind’ me except for myself…I am not part of any organization. I sometimes support and cooperate with several NGOs that work with the climate and environment. But I am absolutely independent and I only represent myself.
“And I do what I do completely for free, I have not received any money or any promise of future payments in any form at all. And nor has anyone linked to me or my family done so. And of course it will stay this way. I have not met one single climate activist who is fighting for the climate for money. That idea is completely absurd.”
You can read Thunberg’s full post here