Arise, Teen Selfie Stars

Climate activist and current darling of the free world Greta Thunberg has had enough of your adulation.

Everywhere I have been the situation is more or less same. The people in power, their beautiful words are the same. The number of politicians and celebrities who want to take selfies with us are the same. The empty promises are the same. The lies are the same, and the inaction is the same. Nowhere have I found anyone in power who dares to tell it like it is, because no matter where you are, even that burden they leave to us, us teenagers, us children.

She said that last Friday, at a climate strike rally in New York City. And she’s dead right. Thunberg’s critics have been thoroughly condescending about this pigtailed teenager telling us how to run the world — and her supporters have offered a more subtle form of condescension. There’s an undercurrent of “how cute” and “isn’t it amazing that this teenager is so bright, so committed?” not unlike when Joe Biden called Barack Obama clean and articulate, as if that’s surprising to see in a black man. We applaud Thunberg, we get a selfie, maybe we even give her the Nobel Peace Prize, and we feel like we’ve made a statement on the world’s climate crisis.

When, in fact, we’ve done jack shit. Thunberg made this even more explicit in her Sunday address at the United Nations:

This is all wrong. I shouldn’t be up here. I should be in school on the other side of the ocean. Yet you come to us young people for hope. How dare you. You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words.”

It may be time for Vermont’s own teen selfie stars to adopt the same attitude.

The Vermont Youth Lobby spent this year’s legislative session rallying, lobbying and building support for climate action and impressing the hell out of everyone with their dedication and knowledge — and they got damn little aside from the Statehouse equivalent of “thoughts and prayers.” The legislature didn’t come close to taking significant action on climate issues.

And now we have this tweet posted by House Speaker Mitzi Johnson at Friday’s climate rally in Burlington.

Complete with a first-name shout-out to Thunberg. Isn’t that thweet.

This may seem harsh to these three worthies. But c’mon, they’re part of the House Dems’ leadership team, the same bunch who issued a list of the top five priorities for the 2019 session and didn’t include climate change.

Now, if those youngsters start actin’ all uppity, I’m sure those leaders will be quick to express their displeasure. As they did on May 16, when climate activists stopped being polite and occupied the House balcony.

Johnson said that, though she had engaged in acts of civil disobedience herself, Thursday’s demonstration had been counterproductive. “They were unfortunately not following the rules of the House that allowed reasonable debate to continue within the way we work,” she said.

Climate activists might respond that when the planet is on fire, “reasonable debate” is out of order. “Reasonable debate” has put Vermont unconscionably far behind schedule on all of its climate-action goals.

The protesters wrapped up their sit-in by unfurling a banner saying “See You In January.” Let’s hope that lawmakers are ready to take the kind of action that will prevent any further breaking of the precious rules of the House. But frankly, my expectations are low. Issues like minimum wage, paid family leave, cannabis and gun safety already fill the top of the Democratic majority’s agenda. If the Dems manage to get those four items across the finish line, they may well think they’ve exhausted their capacity to accomplish significant things. And Vermont will continue to fail to do its part to avert the (literally) existential crisis of climate change.


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