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Swedish teen Greta triumphs where world leaders falter (Book Review)
New Delhi, Sep 25 - There was much hope when the Paris Agreement on Climate Change was adopted in December 2015 to keep the increase in global average temperatures well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to limit the increase to 1.5 degrees to mitigate the risks of global warming.
Since then, the issue has merely chugged along, with the US even exiting the Agreement, till, in less than a year, Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg electrified the world in a series of 11 speeches culminating in the UN Climate Action Summit earlier this month, bringing the issue right back on track.
"There was something...about Greta that set her apart from her schoolmates, other than her strong interest in the environment," writes Valentina Camerini in an unofficial biography titled 'The Schoolgirl Who Went on Strike to Save The Planet' (Simon & Schuster/pp 129/Rs 199).
At the age of 11, she was diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome - a condition in which those afflicted "become interested in a particular issue and think about it obsessively without being able to let go. This is exactly what was happening to Greta," Camerini writes in the book, translated from Italian by Moreno Giovannoni.
On August 20, 2018, Greta "tied her long hair into two plaits, put on a checked shirt and a blue coat and walked out of the house where she lived with her parents. Under her arm she carried a wooden placard. Handwritten at the top were the words "SKOLSTREJK FOR KLIMATET" (School Strike For Climate). She had also made some pamphlets to distribute, with some very important about climate change that she thought everyone should know about", Camerini writes.
Climbing onto her bike, she headed for the Riksdag (Parliament) to begin the Friday's for Future - or School Strike 4 Climate - movement that millions around the world have now joined.
"Her brain works in a slightly different way to most people's. For her, the world is black or white, there are situations that are right and others that are wrong. You can't just decide that pollution is terrible and then keep on polluting the planet in your everyday life," the book states.
With newspapers and magazines writing about her, Greta's fame spread far and wide.
She addressed the European Economic and Social Committee in February, a gathering to 25,000 at Berlin's Brandenburg Gate in March, EU leaders at the European Parliament in Strasbourg in April, the Austrian World Summit in May where she met with Hollywood star Arnold Schwarzenegger, United Nations Secretary General António Guterres and Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen, the US House of Representatives Select Committee on the Climate Crisis September 18 and the Global Climate Strike in New York on September 20 before attending the Climate Action Summit two days later.
US President Donald Trump tweeted a video of her opening remarks and commented sarcastically: "She seems like a very happy young girl looking forward to a bright and wonderful future. So nice to see!" Greta paid him back in the same coin, changing her Twitter profile to describe herself as "a very happy young girl looking forward to a bright and wonderful future".
Essentially a book for children, with chapters explaining global warming for youngsters, detailing what can be done to mitigate this, a glossary, a timeline and suggestions for further reading, the biography will appeal to people of all ages as it states the issues involved in layman's terms sans the jargon.
To that extent, it's a winner all the way.
(Vishnu Makhijani can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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