“How is she qualified to talk about climate change?” I have often heard these and similar questions regarding Greta Thunberg’s competencies. Ever since she became one of the most prominent figures in the fight against climate change, people became triggered by the gap between her youth and the central role she plays. They question Greta’s authority to ‘lecture’ on what should be done to prevent humanity from deepening the global climate crisis.
Greta’s primary competence is her supreme co-intelligence, which is defined as «accessing the wisdom of the whole on behalf of the whole» (Co-Intelligence Institute). This same qualification is present among many great historical figures. They had passion, courage, and the ability to embody emerging paradigms before these became a reality. However, no one is asking: “where had Jesus learned about Christianity? What were his qualifications?
Although there might be some vague symbolic similarities between the two, by no means do I wish to draw any direct parallelism between Greta and Jesus. Neither do I want to see environmentalism turning into some religion. Environmentalism is so much more. It is the first universally coded frequency that steers human consciousness in the same direction despite religious, cultural, and language differences.
Religion operates through the system of beliefs, which is a state of the mind when we consider something true even though we are not 100% sure or able to prove it. Beliefs represent ideas about ‘how true it is that things are related in particular ways’ and ‘refer to the subjective probability’ (Schwartz). Since they do not relate to the importance of goals as guiding principles in life (which is the role of values), they are less stable than values (Schwartz).
Religion is built upon beliefs, while environmentalism is built upon reason. Here lies the main distinction between them. While religion relies upon the persuasive strength behind the collection of cultural systems, belief systems, and worldviews, environmentalism stands upon the scientific consensus. Climate change is not something one beliefs or not. It’s a fact. However, to have the universal reach, environmentalism, same as any science, requires some persuasion. It requires being integrated into behavioral values, which are the guiding principles in life.
Christianity was built upon the centuries of persuasion. Often through violence, coercion, and domination. Eventually, it moved beyond the beliefs into sets of norms that steer social behavior. Environmentalism derives from rationalism. From Cogito ergo sum (I think, therefore I am). Since René Descartes, the father of modernity, installed the Doubt and built the Method, the foundations of social power (of the Western world) based on the Miracle began to shake. They began revealing to Man the secrets of matter. Nowadays, it is a chain that from Prometheus feeds our curiosity and evolution.
Among the many exciting details in Russel Shorto’s «historical adventure that illustrates the eternal debate between faith and reason» is the refuge that Descartes found in Sweden. This is where he was exiled after being persecuted by the clergy whose main concern «was that Descartes’ views on the matter and the material world could undermine the doctrine of the Eucharist and the real presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharistic bread.»
Greta Thunberg is the bearer of Descartes’s flame. She is the bond between faith and science—a reminder of the power of behavioral values that stand between Mind and Matter.
While both Jesus and Greta preach moral values that lead to desirable collective behavior, the difference lies in the evidence to support it. Christianity was built upon the subjectivity of dogmas behind the unsubstantiated claims of miracles committed by one man. Environmentalism is built upon the meticulous and transparent process of objective revision and validation of scientific research.
For the past two thousand years, Jesus played the role of “The Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” His role had an enormous influence on the social, cultural, and even technological development of Western civilization. However, it remained limited by the dogmas and geographical boundaries set by other dominant and often conflicting belief systems.
The role of Greta is universal. She doesn’t preach beliefs; she points directly to values as desirable goals that motivate action (Schwartz). Her role is to sacrifice her shyness, not to take away our sins but to expose them instead. Hence, Jesus’s plea «Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do» is Greta’s “Shame on you!”
Her message aims not to passive hope for one man’s sacrifice to save humanity. Her message is Active Hope in the power of all women and men working together towards global environmental goals.
It is a bold co-intelligence that is channeling signals from our larger ecological self. As Joanna Macy nicely describes it, when these signals land in us, they can work through us and take form in our actions. That’s the power of co-intelligence that arises when we share ideas and visions we find inspiring, making room to hear what moves other people. (Macy&Johnstone).
Greta’s co-intelligence is a move from cogito ergo sum towards cogito ergo sumus (I think, therefore we are). It is the ‘I can’t, we can’ notion (Macy&Johnstone). Consequently, she is more than morally qualified to inspire collective climate action against climate change. To lead towards action that does not need promises of the Holly Heaven because the Afterlife Greta ‘preaches’ comes through the sacrifice of overconsumption today so the generations to come can benefit in the future. And that is what inspires my belief in Eternal Life.