Since starting the Fridays for Future initiatives of school strikes which quickly spread on a worldwide scale, young climate activist Greta Thunberg has received criticisms for pretty much everything that could come to mind: her age, her political inclinations, her methods of protest, her approach to school and even her health condition and appearance.
So when she posted a picture during her sailboat trip from the United Kingdom to New York, whose intention, as was previously stated, was to have a non-existent carbon footprint, people on the internet did not hesitate to deconstruct and over-analyse every detail of it.
Until they found something they could push hate on from just having seen a simple picture. In the background, the culprit: a plastic bottle.
Perhaps because of my bad vision or overall attention to detail, this element did not stand out to me until I went onto reading the comments, with many people being judgemental or outright disrespectful to a young girl who has been attempting to change things and, despite her young age, made her voice heard.
Which led me to think: out of all these people commenting, these thousands of people from all over the world, have they perhaps never used something made of plastic? Have they completely switched to a zero-waste lifestyle since the news about climate change started becoming serious business?
The bottle in the background, as it has been claimed, belonged to one of the crew members; surely, whilst the trip was organised by Greta’s team of environmentally conscious and aware people, this would not mean they would be able to limit the rest of the crew’s liberty to bring personal belongings or waste on board. If that was the case, it would be the wrong approach taken to fight the climate emergency, since it limits personal freedoms and does not give people a choice to reflect and take steps by themselves.
The hypocritical tone of plenty of comments shows a phenomenon which is more and more popular as young people become influential and speak up about social issues: they are hardly taken seriously and they are constantly under the public’s lenses for any mistake. When a seemingly insignificant event like this happens, we are quick to point the finger and ignore all the valuable work an individual has done up until then.
There is no way to get around it: being one-hundred percent eco-friendly and sustainable is, in this day and age, practically impossible if paired with being an active member of society. What the world needs is not someone who will set this unrealistic standard, distancing themselves from the masses, but a figure that shows that, through simple changes, one can reduce their impact on their environment; someone that advocates for a life of being integrated in modern society yet is conscious about pollution, waste and other environmental issues.
So, to the climate change sceptic of older generations who have started the destruction of our planet and now ironically criticise us for trying our best, pettily pointing to a plastic bottle, which belonged to a crew member during a 14-day sailboat trip in the Atlantic Ocean: reflect on your relationship to waste and the environment and your responsibility in the imminent disaster. Reflect on the leaders you have elected and their environmental policies, admire and listen to who is doing more than you.
Fighting climate change requires normalising environmentalism. And sometimes, in those conditions, that takes a plastic bottle.
Featured image: Instagram, @GretaThunberg