By Emma Landsburgh
Davos, a town situated in the Swiss Alps, welcomed the world’s leading figures in politics, business, academics and other figures of society for the World Economic Forum. The beginning of January 2020 saw the Forum celebrating its 50th anniversary by gathering leaders and figures to discuss the state of the world and to engage in discussions of how to improve the world. This year the main focus, for many, was the current danger of the climate crisis. During the World Economic Forum, the two main figures that have stood out are Greta Thunberg and Donald Trump as they clashed during their speeches which had vastly different messages.
Greta Thunberg, a 17-year-old Swiss climate activist, made another call towards the lack of effort being put towards the climate crisis by those in power. Thunberg has become renowned around the globe for her activism work, become a face of a movement and a figure for a generation. Through her blunt speeches and actions, Thunberg has faced criticism from a number of directions, Trump being a main one. Which she refers to in her speech as she scathingly mentioned how the panic she apparently invokes in so many people does not spark action. Trump’s twitter has been filled with derision towards Greta Thunberg. The President has made numerous attempts of condescending the teenage activist, often through his infamous tweets. Within his speech at the World Economic Forum Trump even alluded towards Thunberg and those who have been proving the dire situation of the climate crisis as “prophets of doom”.
The two speeches are completely different. One trying to emphasise the dire situation the world is finding itself in. The other focusing on marketing, the economy and money. The materialism of Trump shines through his speech as he focuses solely on money, cost and work like a true businessman. Trump’s thirty-minute speech focused upon America and the revival of the American Dream which is, according to Trump: “back; bigger, better and stronger than before”. After spending a long while speaking of the United States excelling economy and ensuring to mention that America is the role model to other countries, Trump finally deviates towards his dreaded topic: the climate crisis.
“This is a time for optimism”, Trump states as he mentions the future of “God’s creation”. The President mentions how America is the number one producer of oil and gas. Trump tries to deviate away from the facts of climate change as he entreats the audience to reject “predictions of the apocalypse”. He goes on to attempting to tear down the credibility of figures and movements that have proven the increasing danger of climate change. The overpopulation crisis of the 60s, the mass starvation of the 70s and the ‘end of oil’ in the 90s are all listed as reasons as to why the Extinction Rebellion and qualified professionals shouldn’t be listened to. However, we can already see the effect we have had upon the planet through mass wildfires, drought, rising sea levels amongst other terrible natural disasters. After disregarding a whole movements factual evidence, he finishes his speech by reminding the importance of economy and marketing in “lifting the human spirit”.
Thunberg’s speech is the voice of the many as she details the disappointment of a whole generation as they see their future slipping through their hands. The young activist is often undermined for her age within the media and is presented as inexperienced. The younger generation have every right to speak out about the looming dangers of climate change as it will impact their future. The disgust and disappointment are clear in her voice as she addresses the laissez-faire attitude of those in power, a direct biting tone is issued towards Trump as she mentions the impact of the United States pulling out of The Paris Agreement. Insufficient actions have led us to go down this path of destruction. Thunberg is able to see what many can’t, the clock is counting down.
The global disaster has consistently been tied to politics and agendas. Leaders have often used it as a way to define the standard of their country and to establish competition against one another. No politics or ideology has fully focused on the disaster. The language of the climate crisis is often filled with remorse and regret, yet no serious action is being taken. We often hear by 2030 or by 2050 rather than tackling the present problem. Thunberg disrupts the ‘plans’ set out in Trump’s speech. She entreats governments to halt all investments in fossil fuel exploration and extraction, stop fossil fuel subsidies and divest from fossil fuels. Governments must begin to make this transition or otherwise face having to explain to their children why they gave up without trying.
Thunberg ends her speech with bitingly enforcing an image of guilt due to the inaction that has been faced. “Our house is still on fire. Your inaction is fuelling the flames by the hour.”