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Greta, you’re yelling in the wrong direction!

Isabel Williams
Written By
Isabel Williams
Greta, you’re yelling in the wrong direction!
Artwork by Louise Pau and Simon Tyler

It’s not about the science. If convincing policymakers that climate change was real and the science was robust was the issue, we would have achieved change and my summers wouldn’t be so sweaty. To get the powerful interested in saving all humans from extinction, you need to speak their language.

Throughout the years of Greta Thunberg being in the spotlight, her messaging has moved from promoting the science to that of strong emotions. From “We’ll be watching you” to “blah, blah, blah,” Greta is making headlines for her bold, emotional statements. But are these statements a good idea?

There are five Moral Foundations, established by psychologists Jonathan Haidt, Craig Joseph, and Jesse Graham are:

  • Care/harm (compassion for those suffering)
  • Fairness/cheating (people get what they deserve)
  • Loyalty/betrayal (us vs. them)
  • Authority/subversion (valuing order, tradition, and hierarchy)
  • Sanctity/degradation (believing in the purity of things)

In Greta’s recent public statements, her words have been focused on two categories, care/harm and fairness/cheating.

“Our hopes and dreams drown in their empty promises” - Care/harm

“You all come to us young people for hope. How dare you?” - Fairness/cheating

While these foundations are most effective with liberal-leaning folks, they can be understood universally and sway people towards the left. These foundations have been key in progressing gay rights, gender equality, and racial equality. There are some cases where it’s more difficult to utilize the care/harm and fairness/cheating arguments, which may be why these movements don’t progress. Examples of this are abortion and affirmative action, which are still highly polarized.  

While Greta’s messages have the ability to resonate with all, there’s really no point preaching to most liberals anymore. If she wishes to convince those who have yet to be, it’s time to focus on authority/subversion.

Authority/subversion emotions are tied closely with being conservative. Valuing order, tradition, and hierarchy. Currently, her messaging goes directly against conservative values, which can have dangerous ramifications. “We can no longer let the people in power decide what is politically possible or not.” Eco-friendly policy can definitely be framed in a manner that highlights the natural order of our planet and how we are ignoring it, the tradition of cherishing our land, etc.

If Greta really hopes to save our planet from burning to a crisp, she needs to focus her efforts on those who oppose her. If she doesn’t make this shift, all conservatives are going to hear is more “blah, blah, blah.”