Greta Thunberg: Tears-of-laughter emoji sums up ‘absurdity’ of man-made threat to our planet

‘The climate crisis is actually hilarious, if you think of it,’ says teenage protest icon

Joe Sommerlad@JoeSommerlad
Tuesday 13 April 2021 12:01
Greta Thunberg: A Year to Change the World trailer

Climate activist Greta Thunberg has admitted she sometimes feels moved to laughter by the “absurdity” of the catastrophe facing the planet, likening her mood to the popular tears-of-laughter emoji used in text messages and social media posts every day.

Speaking to The Radio Times to promote her new BBC documentary series, Greta Thunberg: A Year to Change the World, the Swedish teenager and protest icon said: “You need to be able to laugh sometimes. The climate crisis is actually hilarious, if you think of it. It’s just the absurdity of the situation.

“If you’re doing everything you can, then you just need to take a step back and say, OK, there’s nothing more I can do, so then you just have to laugh.”

The new series finds Ms Thunberg travelling the world to visit hotspots where industrial activity is accelerating the pace of climate change and to challenge world leaders on their failure to order meaningful preventative action, a journey taking her from Canada’s oil fields to the coal mines of Central Europe.

In her interview with The Radio Times, the activist also addressed the attacks she has suffered from world leaders like Donald Trump, whom she ridiculed in a memorable trolling battle on Twitter after he mocked her emotional address to the UN’s Climate Action Summit in September 2019, and Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro, who dismissed her as a “brat”.

“Whether it is by applauding me or taking selfies with me, or whether it is by calling me things, or criticising me. I mean, both these teams are using me for different purposes and in different ways, but they are still using me to gain popularity,” Ms Thunberg said of her global fame.

She also agreed with students at the University of Winchester who objected to the institution erecting a statue of her on the grounds that the £24,000 spent on it could have been better used elsewhere, calling the project “very strange”.

Asked about the generous praise she has received from legendary naturalist Sir David Attenborough after she interviewed him as guest editor of BBC Radio 4’s Today programme in December 2019, Ms Thunberg was typically frank and self-deprecating, answering: “Compared to him, I have done nothing.”

“He is a person who is loved by everyone, and he is using that platform to communicate these things that are very uncomfortable,” she said.

“And I’ve only done this together with the millions of others in the Fridays for Future movement, so it’s not something that I have accomplished, really. All I’ve done is to write and give speeches and to travel around, and it feels like anyone else could have done the same thing. It’s not that I’m unique in this sense.”

On the future of the environmental movement, Ms Thunberg said she was grateful that the science has become clearer and achieved mainstream acceptance in recent decades but expressed frustration that the necessary measures are still not being implemented by world governments and that human convenience is still being prioritised ahead of conservation.

“Of course, I don’t have all the solutions,” she said. “No one has. But when we ask that question, we need to think about: solutions to what? Solutions to the climate crisis, or solutions that allow us to go on like today? Because right now, we are looking for solutions that allow us to go on like today.”

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