Greta Thunberg vs. Boyan Slat

Column by Alex R. Knight III.

Exclusive to STR

Ever since August of 2018, the world has been hearing a lot about Greta Thunberg, an autistic teen from Sweden who began skipping government school classes (an admirable action when taken by itself) to stake out the Swedish Parliament building in Stockholm in order to demand “action” on the subject of “climate change.” As emotionally-charged phenomenons are often wont to do, this one went viral globally, prompting all kinds of school walk-outs around the world in order to “raise awareness” about and to protest so-called “climate-change.” Thunberg then went on to give a number of speeches and lead protests throughout Europe, garnering a lot of enthusiastic establishment press coverage. A year after she started gaining attention, Thunberg then boarded a 60 foot racing yacht and, with the assistance of a full crew, sailed from Plymouth, UK, to New York in what was touted as a 15-day “carbon neutral” voyage – replete with solar panels and underwater turbines – in order to speak at the United Nations Climate Action Summit held in late September. (It was, incidentally, never widely reported that several more crew members were flown via jet aircraft to New York, in order to sail the vessel back to Europe.)

On September 23rd, Thunberg gave what many described as a Hitlerian speech to the UN. Angry, insulting, and full of “how dare you!” exclamations, the tirade made numerous demands for political action – but offered no actual solutions. I'm in no way averse to rudely berating UN bureaucrats on any number of levels, and for a virtually unending myriad of reasons, but I suppose Thunberg believes members of the political class are somehow magically qualified to produce those “solutions” – or can, at least, give orders to various members of industry and the scientific community to come up with and implement such “solutions” (assuming there is any “climate-change crisis” to begin with . . . which is big assumption, at best). 

It is nothing short of a testament to both absurdity, and the sadly substandard nature of the average human mind, to observe that Thunberg has both received, and been nominated for, at least 20 both private and governmental awards – including a nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize.

All for doing little more than being young, and making some purile, angry, infantile, and impotent noises about an imaginary and politically motivated “crisis.”

Enter Boyan Slat: A 25 year old from the Netherlands, who, at Thunberg's current age of 16, encountered an enormous amount plastic trash floating in the ocean while swimming in Greece. He immediately resolved to do something about it. Within a year, the 17 year old had come up with the basic design for a passive garbage-collection system that used the naturally circulating ocean currents in order to perform its task. A year after that, Slat founded The Ocean Cleanup – a private organization supported exclusively by crowdfunding and donations. After launching the initial system prototype, Slat and his team have continually engineered improvements, and are now in the fifth year of operations near Hawaii. Slat eventually hopes to have as many as 60 such apparatus operating in the Pacific Ocean by as soon as 2021 – and aims to clean up perhaps as much as 50% of the plastic refuse in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch by 2026.

Compare those two track records. Then go and look at each of their Wikipedia pages: Thunberg's stretches out like some epic saga, while Slat's looks more like a footnote. Yes, Slat has won several prestigious awards and commendations for his work, and deservedly so. But who is basking in the vast lion's share of praise, attention, and mainstream media coverage?

Further illuminating the very essence of this disparity is something Slat wrote in The Economist in 2017: "Technology is the most potent agent of change. It is an amplifier of our human capabilities. Whereas other change-agents rely on reshuffling the existing building blocks of society, technological innovation creates entirely new ones, expanding our problem-solving toolbox.”

In other words, markets provide solutions (especially when dealing with actual real-world problems), not politics and government. Innovation, not socialism, is the message here. I don't know if Slat is a libertarian, or is on his way to becoming one, but he certainly knows how to articulate like one. And any casual observer can determine that his intellect is, regardless, clearly light-years beyond Thunberg's best efforts on her best day. Just watch her UN speech, and the question and answer period (a misnomer, since she was incapable of answering even a single question) following it, if you have any doubts on that score.

It becomes readily apparent, once we openly contrast the two, what the media establishment's love affair with Thunberg is all about – and why Boyan Slat tends to get less coverage than town hall meetings. 

Thunberg's approach lends itself readily to the expansion of governmental power, reach, and control over resources, money, and people – all while addressing no actual problem of any moment. It plays into capitalization (if you'll pardon my use of the word in this context) upon a fabricated “crisis” to destroy liberty for the benefit of a powerful few, and the alphabet soup agencies designed to serve them.

Slat's endeavors, on the other hand, offer little room for exercise of governmental force or expansion of bureaucratic power – all while actually solving a problem of real import. His efforts display, openly, the power of private initiative and capital. 

In other words, the power of freedom.

Thunberg's appeals to only emotion, and the violent force of the State, offer nothing. Nothing but hot air, showcasing – and more of the same tyranny that man has imposed upon man for the last several thousand years, and with little to show for itself at day's end but impediment of actual progress, thievery, and lethal destruction.

In the contest between the aims and methods of Thunberg and Slat, I think the winner is pretty clear.

Would that the rest of the world were to take ample notice, and conclude so also. 

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Alex R. Knight III's picture
Columns on STR: 153

Alex R. Knight III is the author of numerous horror, science-fiction, and fantasy tales.  He has also written and published poetry, non-fiction articles, reviews, and essays for a variety of venues.  He currently lives and writes in rural southern Vermont where he holds a B.A. in Literature & Writing from Union Institute & University.  Alex's Amazon page can be found here, and his work may also be found at both Smashwords and Barnes & Noble.  His MeWe group can be found here.


John deLaubenfels's picture

Well said, Mr. K.

Alex R. Knight III's picture

Well, thank you.  :-)  

Mark Davis's picture

Great article, Alex. The contrast between these two environmental activists perfectly juxtaposes both capitalist/socialist and freedom/authoritarian methods as well as their respective supporters. Powerful and concise. Well done.

Alex R. Knight III's picture

A good observation, and thank you, Mark.  :-)  

Alex R. Knight III's picture

Excellent relevant piece here from Jason D. Hill:

Brian Mast's picture

Youtube: What do you think of Greta Thunberg's plastic garbage filled Tesla? | Keean Bexte

sovereign1's picture

It is a sad indictment of the educational system today.
Cultural Marxism has taken over all institutions.
This younger generation looking to the state to solve problems, while simultaneously condemning it.

Alex R. Knight III's picture