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Nobel Peace Prize nominee Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old influential environmental activist on the autism spectrum, turned a columnist’s “deeply disturbing” insult on its head with a clap-back asking, “Where are the adults?”
On Wednesday, Australian News Corp columnist Andrew Bolt penned an opinion piece in the Herald Sun titled, “The Disturbing Secret to the Cult of Greta Thunberg.” He used the space to dismiss Thunberg’s advocacy work and decision to travel to the United States for a climate change summit via yacht to reduce airplane gas emissions as part of her “mental disorders.”
“I have never seen a girl so young and with so many mental disorders treated by so many adults as a guru,” Bolt wrote. “Far more interesting is why so many adults — including elected politicians, top business leaders, the Pope and journalists — treat a young and strange girl with such awe and even rapture.”
Thunberg, no stranger to such attacks from adult columnists, took to Twitter with a retort turning Bolt’s words back on him.
“I am indeed ‘deeply disturbed’ about the fact that these hate and conspiracy campaigns are allowed to go on and on and on just because we children communicate and act on the science,” Thunberg tweeted. “Where are the adults?”
I am indeed ”deeply disturbed” about the fact that these hate and conspiracy campaigns are allowed to go on and on and on just because we children communicate and act on the science. Where are the adults? pic.twitter.com/xDSlN0VgtZ
— Greta Thunberg (@GretaThunberg) August 1, 2019
As Thunberg suggested in her tweet, Bolt is an adult man attacking a child — Thunberg’s eloquence and intelligence don’t negate she is still a teenager. In addition, Bolt described Thunberg’s autistic traits as “mental disorders,” “freakishly influential” and “strange,” attempting to use autism stigma and stereotypes to negate her passion for climate change and science advocacy.
Thunberg earned a Nobel Peace Prize nomination in April for her environmental advocacy efforts. In addition to other events, she staged a massive student walk-out across schools in 112 countries in March to demand government action on climate change. Her efforts sparked a larger, ongoing movement, Fridays for Future. She was also named as one of TIME 100’s most influential people this year.
Since landing in the public eye, Thunberg is no stranger to bullying, nor are other autistic young people. An Interactive Autism Network report found approximately 63 percent of autistic kids between ages 6 and 15 experienced bullying. Bullying, for kids on the spectrum, further isolates them from their peers and becomes a significant risk factor for suicide. Mighty contributor Gemma Wright outlined the major impact this had on her life in the article, “When I Was Bullied as an Autistic Teen”:
Autistic children and adults alike are routinely ostracized, disliked and bullied; some people even fear us. … I know I’m autistic now — I’ve known for years — but nobody really knew about the difference in the brain wiring back then. And so the bullying began — the bullying that haunts me to this day.
Thunberg is open about being autistic, and she highlighted that her neurodiversity helps her see the world in a different way. She pointed out diverse ways of looking at the world are needed to make a difference, in her case for climate change.
“And no, autism (as well as ADHD, ADD, Tourette’s, OCD, ODD etc) is not a ‘gift’,” she wrote in a Facebook post on Autism Acceptance Day. “But under the right circumstances, given the right adjustments it CAN be a superpower. … Without my diagnosis, I would never have started school striking. Because then I would have been like everyone else.”
Today is #AutismAwarenessDay . Proud to be on the spectrum!And no, autism (as well as ADHD, ADD, Tourette’s, OCD, ODD…
Thunberg previously announced she will attend the United Nations Climate Action Summit in New York in September and COP25 in Santiago, Chile, in December. She’ll travel using a zero-emissions sailboat.
I’ll be joining the UN Climate Action Summit in New York, COP25 in Santiago and other events along the way.
I’ve been offered a ride on the 60ft racing boat Malizia II. We’ll be sailing across the Atlantic Ocean from the UK to NYC in mid August.#UniteBehindTheScience pic.twitter.com/9OH6mOEDce
— Greta Thunberg (@GretaThunberg) July 29, 2019