Chinese netizens praise practical moves on climate change amid Greta Thunberg debate

By Shan Jie Source:Global Times Published: 2019/9/8 18:38:40

Swedish teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg waves from a yacht on August 14 as she starts her trans-Atlantic boat trip to New York, the US. Photo: VCG

Teen climate activist Greta Thunberg has been at the center of debate after her controversial "carbon-neutral" yacht voyage to New York.

In China, opinions have been largely mixed over Thunberg's trip. While some environmentalists expressed appreciation for her, many others called for more practical actions.

Yacht controversy

Thunberg, 16, arrived in New York, the US on August 28 after two weeks' sailing across the Atlantic.

She is set to attend a UN Youth Summit on Climate, which will take place in the city on September 23.

Thunberg's voyage drew a great deal of attention from around the world.

The Swedish teen refused to take a flight from Europe to New York due to its "big fuel consumption." Instead, she decided use a "zero-carbon" method of travel to raise people's awareness of the global emission and pollution damage caused by human activity, according to the UN's official Sina Weibo account.

Thunberg, her father, two sailors and a photographer sailed to New York on the Malizia II, a "race yacht with solar panels and underwater turbines that generate electric power."

Thunberg's action was praised by Amina Mohammed, a UN deputy secretary-general. "Young people around the world are demanding urgent climate action by all leaders," she said.

On arrival, Thunberg was asked if she would meet US President Donald Trump. "My message for him is just listen to the science, and he obviously doesn't do that," Thunberg said, the Independent reported.

"As I always say to this question, if no one has been able to convince him about the climate crisis, the urgency, then why should I be able to do that," she added.

However, questions were quickly raised about the "zero-emission" trip. Even though Thunberg herself did not take a plane, some crewmen had to.

"We decided to travel to New York City on very short notice, so two people had to fly to the US to bring the boat back in," Holly Cova, team manager for the crew, told

Mixed opinions

The yacht trip caused global debate, and opinions on Thunberg were divided in China.

Under the UN's Weibo post about the voyage, most netizens expressed doubts in their comments.

"I only saw formalism. Could it really do something to reduce emissions?" said "Hongleimozi."

"I respect the team who was pushing and hyping Thunberg. They are so sharp," "Guozi and Carman" posted on Weibo.

Insiders in Chinese environmental circles said there was "not much discussion" about her.

"But people in education and government would not support her, as she advocates student strikes at school," a Beijing-based environmental activist told the Global Times. "She does not fit their definition of a student."

An NGO employee in Beijing, surnamed Zhu, said that it is not the case that "foreign students only know how to demonstrate while Chinese students are more practical in planting trees… I feel many people in China only focus on the economy and lack citizen consciousness."

"The young person has her own ideas," said another environmental NGO employee surnamed Li, adding that Thunberg is a "typical northern European."

It was not the first time that questions have surrounded Thunberg.

She has been on strike at school for one year, and initiated the "school strike for the climate," which excited many of her young supporters in Europe, while protests also grew, said

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is a supporter of Thunberg, who has also met French President Emmanuel Macron, former US president Barack Obama, US actor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Pope Francis since late last year, reported.

The recent yacht controversy has made Thunberg a focus of international media.

In July, Australian News Corp columnist Andrew Bolt criticized Thunberg's "zero-emission" trip and questioned her mental health, calling her "deeply disturbed," the Guardian reported on September 2.

In response, Thunberg talked about her Asperger's syndrome on Twitter, calling it "a superpower."

One of her most recent supporters is former James Bond actor Pierce Brosnan, who called Thunberg "a magnificent young woman." He also said Thunberg "has to be careful, has to be protected," the AFP reported on Saturday.

Practical action

"The Western media's coverage of Thunberg is trying to get an emotional reaction through environmental protection, which is a fantasy that jumps out of reality," read an article posted on WeChat public account of "Yingguo Baojie," an internet influencer in China with more than 16.7 million followers on Sina Weibo.

But the article also expressed respect for Thunberg. "She is doing her best to do the right thing."

The article mentioned that many people are doing practical things to combat climate change, but who are still unknown to the public.

Six people planted trees for 38 years in the Babusha collective forestry farm in Northwest China's Gansu Province. Since 1981, they have created a 300-kimometer-long shelter forest belt, the China Youth Daily reported.

"This is what real environmental protection is like. It takes a lot of time and effort and involves lots of boring data and forestry knowledge," the "Yingguo Baojie" story said.
Newspaper headline: Call to action

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