Has Greta Thunberg Just Won the Nobel Peace Prize with Her Rhetoric?

by OFER TIROSH 25/09/2019
Has Greta Thunberg Just Won the Nobel Peace Prize with Her Rhetoric?

Did you join the Global Climate Strike on 20 September? 

16-year-old Greta Thunberg has inspired young people and adults alike to stand up and be counted when it comes to fighting climate change. The young Swede’s influence has spread around the world, with and estimated 1.4 million children taking part in the 15 March 2019 strike for climate change. The most recent strike, on 20 September, saw millions of children and adults join the young activist’s cause, with demonstrations taking place in over 150 different countries. 

Some of the team here at Tomedes rallied to the cause. As a translation agency operating across multiple continents, our view is very much a global one. Were you able to strike us? If not, have you been following Greta Thunberg’s mission to save the planet – and do you think her efforts warrant a Nobel Peace Prize? 

Double Nobel Prize in Literature Award in 2019

It’s been a tricky couple of years for the Nobel Foundation. Normally, six Nobel Prizes are awarded each year – one each for literature, physics, chemistry, peace, economics, and physiology & medicine. However, the foundation announced earlier this year that 2019 would see the award of not one but two Nobel Prizes in Literature. 

The unusual decision to award two literature prizes follows the cancellation of the 2018 award due to the chaos that descended in the wake of sexual assault allegations being made against the husband of a member of the Swedish Academy. 

The situation saw Swedish Academy members, who are appointed for life, trying to resign, abstaining from participating and going on leave as the sexual assault scandal unfolded. The organisation has made some fundamental changes to its membership and governance since then, with further changes to follow, which has given the Nobel Foundation sufficient confidence to allow it to move ahead with plans to award two Nobel Prizes in Literature this year. 

Will Greta Thunberg Win a Nobel Prize This Year? 

Do you feel that Greta Thunberg is deserving of the award? Should she join the ranks of Nobel Prize winners, who include Mother Theresa, Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King? 

Greta Thunberg was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize earlier this year. Speaking of the nomination, Norwegian Socialist MP Freddy André Øvstegård comments, 

“We have proposed Greta Thunberg because if we do nothing to halt climate change it will be the cause of wars, conflict and refugees. Greta Thunberg has launched a mass movement which I see as a major contribution to peace.”

A total of 301 nominations have been made for the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize, including 223 individuals and 78 organisations. 

If she wins – and she’s many bookies’ favourite at the time of writing – Greta Thunberg will become the youngest Nobel Prize winner. That’s an honour currently held by Malala Yousafzai, who won it at age 17 for fighting for the right for all children to receive an education, despite the Taliban attempting to assassinate her in 2012. 

With the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize being awarded on 11 October 2019, Greta Thunberg could become the youngest ever Nobel laureate, at just 16 years old. 

Why Are Greta Thunberg’s Speeches So Moving?

Greta Thunberg is known for making incisive, direct speeches. She attributes her way of viewing the world to being on the autistic spectrum. She was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, obsessive-compulsive disorder and selective mutism in her early teens following a period of intense depression and self-starvation. 

Are you interested in hearing more about Thunberg’s unique journey to becoming a climate change activist? If so, her TED talk is the ideal place to hear about it in her own words. 

That someone who has been diagnosed as selectively mute has become one of the world’s most recognised speakers on the subject of climate change is fascinating in itself. As Thunberg observes, 

“I only speak when I think it’s necessary – now is one of those moments… There are no grey areas when it comes to survival. Either we go on as a civilization or we don’t. We have to change.”

One of the most compelling aspects of Greta Thunberg’s speeches is their balance of pathos, ethos and logos. She uses pathos to evoke emotions in her audience, ethos to share her values and logos to present the irrevocable facts that compelled her to begin the school strike for climate change movement. It’s a trio that advertisers around the world understand the power of and Thunberg uses it absolutely beautifully. 

The force of many of Greta Thunberg’s speeches comes from their sincerity and directness. The young activist has important messages to deliver and is determined to do so, whether her audience is made up of school children or the world’s leaders gathered at the UN Climate Action Summit. As the world has awoken to her cause, she has spoken to a huge range of audiences, including a bold call to action on the new album of British band The 1975. 

In that particular oration, Thunberg states,

“Solving the climate crisis is the greatest and most complex challenge that homo sapiens have ever faced. The main solution, however, is so simple that even a small child can understand it. We have to stop our emissions of greenhouse gases. And either we do that, or we don’t.”

This is typical of her style: factual yet evocative; simple but challenging. 

How is Greta Thunberg’s Speech Style Changing?

At the UN Climate Action Summit 2019 in late September 2019, we saw something new. Visibly upset, Thunberg’s speech sounded closer to the rhetoric of Dr Martin Luther King Jr than anything we’ve heard from her before, as she took world leaders to task for their relative inaction on climate matters over the past three decades. 

“You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words. And yet I'm one of the lucky ones. People are suffering. People are dying. Entire ecosystems are collapsing. We are in the beginning of a mass extinction, and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you!” 

As the world continues to wake up oh-so-slowly to climate change, and to the magnitude of the danger that we are facing, Greta Thunberg’s sense of urgency is increasing. Yet we must remember that she is just 16 years old – and that she is not only summoning the courage to deliver her messages to huge audiences but that she is also translating from Swedish to English in her head as she does so. Could you have done the same at that age? Would you have the courage to do so even now? 

What's Next for Greta Thunberg?

It’s fair to say that Greta Thunberg has achieved a lot in the past year. Since her first school strike outside the Swedish parliament in August 2018, she has mobilised millions of children and adults around the planet and brought climate change into the spotlight like never before. 

How many of us can hope to achieve so much in an entire lifetime, let alone by the time we reach our mid-teens? 

Throughout her strike, her messages have remained clear and to the point. Leaders and politicians around the world have failed to tackle the problem of climate change. We need to take drastic action and we need to take it now. From our diet to the way we live and travel, business as usual has to change. In her own words, 

“We can’t save the world by playing by the rules because the rules have to be changed. Everything needs to change – and it has to start today.”

What's Next for the Rest of Us? 

Saving the planet is a huge challenge, but one in which we can all play a part. What will you do today to make the world a better place for future generations? Share your ideas with Tomedes and with your fellow professional translation experts by leaving a comment below.  

After all, there is no planet B. 

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