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Greta Thunberg: It's time to transform the West's oppressive and racist capitalist system

The Telegraph logo The Telegraph 11/2/2022 India McTaggart
Greta Thunberg - Tim Whitby/Getty Images © Tim Whitby/Getty Images Greta Thunberg - Tim Whitby/Getty Images

From a climate change campaigner to presenting a new far-Left political agenda against “racist” capitalism - meet the new Greta Thunberg.

The 19-year-old Swedish activist has announced that as well as tackling her usual area of climate action and awareness-spreading, she has now thrown her weight behind defeating the West’s “oppressive” capitalist system.

Calling for a “system-wide transformation” at her book launch in London, she claimed that the world’s current “normal” - dictated by the people in power - has caused the climate breakdown.

She said: “We are never going back to normal again because ‘normal’ was already a crisis. What we refer to as normal is an extreme system built on the exploitation of people and the planet.

“It is a system defined by colonialism, imperialism, oppression and genocide by the so-called global North to accumulate wealth that still shapes our current world order.”

Ms Thunberg added: “If economic growth is our only priority, then what we are experiencing now should be exactly what we should be expecting.”

Appearing at London’s Royal Festival Hall to launch her new book, The Climate Book, on Sunday night, she decided to venture into political waters in her speech - having previously avoided doing so.

Released last week, the book includes around 100 contributions from various climate experts, including writer Naomi Klein, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, chief of the World Health Organization, and Thomas Piketty, the economist.

Expressing views that seemed more radical than in the past, she added that the climate crisis “has its roots in racist, oppressive extractivism that is exploiting both people and the planet to maximise short-term profits for a few”.

People were quick to point out the political emphasis on social media, with one best-selling author saying “this is proof that Greta hates capitalism for reasons that have nothing whatsoever to do with climate change”.

Michael Shellenberger, an American author, posted on Twitter that the “whole capitalist system” Ms Thunberg referred to has led to larger food surpluses than at any point in history, average human life expectancy to rise from 30 to 70 and a drop in total deaths from natural disasters.

Ms Thunberg told Samira Ahmed, the BBC journalist, during a question and answer part of the evening that “fascist movements offering easy, false solutions and scapegoats to complex problems are growing and becoming more normalised”.

When asked by Ms Ahmed whether she thought it was as simple as making laws that outlaw things, she responded: “There are many [things we can do], but while we do these things that we can do within our current system, we have to realise that we need a system-wide transformation.

“We need to change everything because right now our current system is on a collision course with the future of humanity and the future of our civilization”.

Thunberg - Kate Green/Getty Images © Provided by The Telegraph Thunberg - Kate Green/Getty Images

Ms Thunberg also described the upcoming Cop27 as a forum for “greenwashing” and said she would not be attending.

The teenager, who is widely hailed as the world’s spokesman for climate change, shot to worldwide fame after attending her first United Nations climate conference in 2018, when the then 15-year-old said: “I expected it to be more action and less talking.”

During the question and answer session on Sunday, she said: “I’m not going to Cop27 for many reasons, but the space for civil society this year is extremely limited.”

This year’s conference, taking place from Nov 6 to 18 in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, will see world leaders - including Rishi Sunak - gather to discuss the pressing climate crisis.

“Of course, it’s very symbolic that it’s held in a tourist centre - a tourist paradise - in a country that violates most of the basic human rights - and many world leaders are too busy to go there,” she added.

Addressing the coverage of her political take in the new book on Wednesday morning, she posted on Twitter: 

Ms Thunberg attached an image of an excerpt from the book alongside the post, which she said was her take on “systems and ideologies”. 

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