Greta Thunberg is a sixteen years old environmental activist from Sweden who became famous after she established the movement School strike for climate. This event draws the attention of the media, generating many viewpoints regarding Greta’s work and its impact on the political and social context. This paper will analyze Greta Thunberg as a teenage environmental activist and discuss the impact of her activities on the media.
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The problem of climate change and the need to address this issue has been discussed in the media for years, with opposing sides of the debate arguing about the real implications of this problem. However, in 2019, the media began highlighting the activities of a young girl criticizing the efforts of governments across the world to address climate change (Buranyi, 2019). Thunberg appeared at the United Nations (UN) conference and spoke at different events, and the global media writes articles discussing the activities of this teenager, either supporting or criticizing her work.
The issue that will be discussed in this paper is the portrayal of the teenage environmental activist Greta Thunberg and the display of support or disapproval of teenage activism through media. This teenager disrupted the digital media, and since her actions are remarkable, however, some criticize her for her activism (Busby, 2016). The digitalization of media and the popularity of social platforms changes the outlook and perception of global political and social issues, allowing people to have more access to information. Brennan (2018) argues that modern protests and activism are primarily supported by the information gained from digital media sources. This can have a beneficial impact since raising awareness about a problem may be more manageable.
Greta Thunberg’s example is an excellent representation of this since the media provided her and her climate change activism efforts with support from many people across the world, resulting in School strikes for climate Friday strikes. Buranyi (2019) examines a variety of opinions regarding the image of Greta, including comments from politicians and other activists who refer to her as a Nazi propagandist or mentally ill child exploited by her parents. The author also highlights both the criticism that Thunberg receives on social media, which can be even harsher compared to comments conveyed through traditional media sources. It is evident that Thunberg’s activism gained attention from both climate change supporters and opposes, subjecting her to a lot of criticism. Because Thunberg is still under the age of sixteen and the criticism she faces for her activism, the question of whether media should support under-aged people arises.
The social context of Greta’s activity is the change in how people perceive activism and how they use media, including new forms of media, to collect information and gain an understanding of an issue. Brenan’s (2018) research suggests that contemporary people use social media websites to discuss their political and social views and to locate information about protests or other events that support their opinions. The problem of the correlation between media and environmental activism is a complex issue. According to Glenn (2015), “the influence of social media and technological developments has changed how groups and organisations advocating for social change generate awareness and participation in their causes” (p. 81). Hence, Greta’s example of teenage activism serves as a great representation of the social changes in the perception and outlook on activism. According to Meikle (2018), policy activism through media is conventional in contemporary society, and the author refers to this as “policy hacking” (p. 10). In essence, through media and social media platforms, like-minded people can connect and discuss issues that concern them. The example of Greta is an excellent representation of this novel model for policy activism.
The political context of Greta’s activism is connected to the attitudes towards climate change that politicians of the developed countries have. In her speech, Greta addressed the fact that policymakers and governments worldwide failed to address the problem, leaving no time to act and make a change that can help mitigate the consequences of climate change (Buranyi, 2019). However, accessible media sources fail to address whether Thunberg, as a teenager, is qualified to comment on climate change and global policy. Considering the changes in activism perceptions, many people may fail to check the facts and form their own opinion regarding this problem.
Another issue that arises in the age of digital media and social platforms is slacktivism. Jones (2016) describes this concept as a lack of effort to support an actual change and participate in events organized by activists. Instead, according to slacktivism’s perception, people display great support for a social change in the media with little action outside the digital world. Moreover, Jones (2016) argues that many people supporting the cause fail to conduct proper research to have a proper overview of a problem. Using the example of Thunberg, one can question her qualifications in the context of climate change criticism, although she refers to scientific works in her speeches. Lowry (2016) argues that this teenager is used by her parents to pursue their political views and aspirations. The author argues that children or teenagers cannot dictate the policies since in most cases, they repeat the opinions and ideas they hear from adults. Hence, teenage activism and its support in the media may be a dangerous element of propaganda or promotion of inadequate policies.
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The main criticism displayed in the media is connected to a concern of whether a teenager has the expertise and qualifications to make judgments regarding complex issues similar to climate change. On the one hand, Thunberg’s activities, such as her speech at the UN conference and her TED talk was highlighted in the media, drawing attention to the problem of climate change (Busby, 2019). Moreover, as an activist, she inspired thousands of teenagers globally to take part in Friday marchers supporting climate change activism. However, as opposition to slacktivism issue, the question of whether supporting people, who may be unqualified to make judgments and affect global policies, through media arises.
Overall, the issue of teenage activism representation in media, as portrayed by the example of Greta Thunberg is complex. There are several elements to this media problem, including the criticism and portrayal of a teenager in media, slacktivism, and lack of fact-checking. The problem of teenage activism, as presented by Thunberg’s example, affects the media since it highlights the contemporary approach to activism. The social and political contexts of this problem are connected to the alterations in activism perception and support and the impact that media activism has on policymaking. The media and its digital equivalents have arisen as sources for political and social activism, which can be used by anyone to showcase their opinion and gain support. The main issue, however, is the validity of these views and their actual impact on global society.
Brennan, G. (2018). How social media reshapes political activism: Mass protests, social mobilization, and civic engagement. Geopolitics, History and International Relations, 10(2), 1-10.
Busby, M. (2019). Arron Banks jokes about Greta Thunberg and ‘freak yachting accidents’. The Guardian. Web.
Buranyi, S. (2019). Greta Thunberg’s enemies are right to be scared. Her new political allies should be too. The Guardian. Web.
Glenn, C.L. (2015). Activism or “slacktivism?”: Digital media and organizing for social change. Communication Teacher, 29(2), 81-85. Web.
Jones, A. (2016). Challenging “slacktivism”: Activism on social media is not enough. Huffington Post. Web.
Meikle, G. (2018). The Routledge companion to media and activism. Abingdon, United Kingdom: Roytledge.
Lowry, R. (2019). No, don’t listen to Greta Thunberg. National Review. Web.