Greta’s Brave New World
The next generation will save our planet, in spite of us. Here’s why.
“How dare you.”
By now, Greta Thunberg is the face of a movement, and her exhortation to the world’s leaders at the United Nations General Assembly is legendary. Her utterance is naïve for voicing an unvarnished truth that adults don’t dare speak, and disarming precisely because it took a child, the kind we chuckle about because of their naïveté, to call us out for the crimes against humanity for which we are utterly complicit. She rubbed our noses in our own feces. It’s embarrassing as f*ck.
And 100% true.
Her three-word reprimand will — in my view — likely be remembered, generations from now, as the start of a new era. As-yet unnamed, her era will be the one that cleans the 13,000-year old mess the adults have made on our planetary carpet, from the time we stopped living with Nature, as a part of it. It was 13,000 years ago that we started defacing the Earth — and the human community — to build wealth that fed short-term greed, while carrying long-term consequences for all of us. The era officially ended on September 23, 2019, with three words from a sixteen-year-old who spoke for her generation once she’d finally had enough of our bullsh*t. I believe the Anthropocene — as we now call it, after human-generated disfigurement — only lasted as long as it did because our wealth extraction tools were inefficient. For all but its final 150 years, we lacked the necessary means to finish the job.
With the Second Industrial Revolution, that changed. We created the scalable tech required to succeed: in bulldozing the world’s forests, in scraping its oceans of fish, in generating eternal summer indoors 24/7/365, in lighting civilizations while we slept, in moving goods globally, endlessly, to power the consumption machine, and in waging world warfare for control of all of it. We did this so that we could eat strawberries in February, chew Bluefin tuna in the desert, devour cows and their lactation at every meal, drive Escalades to the hairdresser, buy as much of anything as our wealth would allow us — then ignore everything once we finally owned it — and expend the least amount of energy humanly possible doing all of it.