Finley: Do something about Greta Thunberg

Nolan Finley
The Detroit News

In naming teen Greta Thunberg as its Person of the Year, Time magazine perpetuates the doomsday myth that risks pushing the world toward disastrous climate change policies.

This youngest of global warming zealots is touted as the child who will lead us to salvation of the planet. Her screeds have gained an audience before the world's most powerful policy-making bodies, which she insolently scolds for cheating children like her of their futures.

The 16-year-old Swede has become the voice of a generation that will wake up Christmas morning to gift boxes filled with all the latest electronic gadgets and gizmos, which will immediately be plugged into an electric grid still powered by fossil fuels.

Greta Thunberg, who has been named Time's youngest "person of the year" on Wednesday.

 Her message is that the current deliberate approach to a carbon-free world will not spare us from the apocalypse she insists is coming in little more than a decade.

She demands action now to stop global warming in its tracks, implying a giant switch can be thrown somewhere to shut down power plants, factories, automobiles and airplanes so the earth can begin healing.

Both kids and adults are lapping up her sermons as if they are the gospel of evangelical environmentalism. And, unfortunately, maybe they are.

But her contention that nothing is being done about climate change is utter nonsense.

Coal plants are rapidly disappearing from first world nations, replaced by facilities generating power from natural gas and renewables.  

Automakers are spending billions to make the internal combustion engine obsolete, and have set goals to build a carbon neutral fleet in less than two decades. Across the manufacturing spectrum, the process of making things is getting steadily greener, as are the products being made.

Something is being done. Lots of things. But not fast enough to soothe Thunberg and the adults who exploit her, downplaying her personal issues in their admiration of her anger. 

To act with the immediacy she demands would commit the world to policies not yet supported by technology. So instead of meeting this existential threat the way humans always have — through  innovation and inventiveness  — Thunberg's response would reverse mankind's forward progress.

Global poverty is at a record low 10%, thanks to the spread of industrialization and capitalism. The choice activists like Thunberg present is to allow more people to die now of the effects of impoverishment to spare them from being sizzled to death later. 

Imposing such radical solutions would demand political structures that more decidedly empower governments over individuals. Personal freedom would be sacrificed to the greater good. 

Thunberg's angry "do something" finger-pointing also supports the myth that someone else bears responsibility for the doing. 

But there's little policymakers can do that we can't do ourselves. We can drive electric cars. We can downsize our houses. We can dial down the heat and forgo air conditioning. We can unplug our devices. We can leave the car in the garage and walk. We can travel less. We can stop buying cheap stuff from China and other heavily polluting countries. 

That would be more impactful than hoisting a troubled Greta Thunberg onto a pedestal to play Joan of Arc of the climate crusade.

Catch Nolan Finley on “One Detroit” at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays on Detroit Public Television.