Belfast Telegraph

Lindy McDowell: Why Greta's speech was so unsettling... and what she needs to learn from Malala


An impassioned Greta Thunberg addresses the United Nations Climate Action Summit
An impassioned Greta Thunberg addresses the United Nations Climate Action Summit
Malala Yousafzai
Prince Harry

By Lindy McDowell

Prince Harry, on tour in South Africa this week, explained to a young student his great burden of worry. As the lad later relayed it to reporters: "Harry said that he often woke up and felt overwhelmed by too many problems in the world. That sometimes it's hard to get out of bed in the mornings because of all the issues."

How perfectly dreadful for poor Harry. Whereas lesser mortals wake in the morning with only minor things to worry about like work, bills, making ends meet, there's his Harriness having to sweat the big stuff.

Climate change. Global poverty. The awful gap between the very rich and the very poor.

Not to mention pressing issues such as when to book the private jet, schedule his next polo match - and still fit in time to help Meghan choose a few more couture gowns to see her through the next couple of weeks.

The royals do have a tendency to overstate their own suffering and their enormous self-sacrifice on behalf of the rest of us.

But in Harry's case if, as he says, he feels so very crushed by world problems that he finds it hard to get out of his kip of a morn, that might suggest he needs professional help with what is obviously real anxiety.

Which brings us to Greta Thunberg.

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Pic of the week has to be that shot of teenage Greta at the UN glowering as Donald Trump padded past her. The look Greta gave him was icy enough to refrost Antarctica.

But, as many have pointed out, more unsettling still was the speech where she blasted UN representatives over their approach to climate change in her wobbly-voiced, teary-eyed distress.

"How dare you." she cried. "You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words."

Greta does indeed seem to have forfeited part of what should be carefree youth.

Just 16, she is the face and the voice of climate change awareness and has, to her credit, inspired a global movement of schoolchildren demanding that governments up their game (shamefully, predictably, that movement is now being hijacked by politicians).

Emmanuel Macron, the French President, has been among those (Trump too, needless to say) who've had a snipe at Greta. Macron accuses her of ratcheting up fear among the young. Terrorising them with apocalyptic scenarios.

But is there no one around her to save Greta from her own warnings of doom?

The most obvious comparison with another young teenage girl similarly thrust into global spotlight would be Malala Yousafzai.

Malala, a campaigner for education for girls in northern Pakistan, was shot by the Taliban. She moved to the UK to continue her fight, attracted an international spotlight to her campaign, was awarded a Nobel prize and then....

And then Malala became Malala again. A young girl with her own life to lead.

She now lives quietly in England where she attends Oxford University and enjoys that most precious of things - her youth.

The issue for those whom we would today call influencers (or game-changers if you're Meghan Markle) isn't just in spreading the message but in spreading fear along with the message. Terror even.

There's been much talk in Westminster in the latter part of this week about whether the language used by Boris Johnson (his reference to a "surrender act" for example) is painting his opponents as traitors and inciting violence against them.

I'm not sure Boris' words have been quite so inflammatory as his adversaries allege. But there is no doubt that in the current febrile political atmosphere all hands could do with toning it down a bit.

Whether it is suggesting that taking a particular stance causes someone to lose sleep, to lose their childhood or to lose their life, for those who are privileged to have a platform to speak to the masses the balance has to be in finding words that spread the message - without spreading fear and loathing.

Kind-hearted David a true hero

Hero of the week - that has to be David Vance, an assistant in Lidl's Connswater branch who, having spotted an elderly and confused man unable to get his card to work at the till, paid for the items out of his own pocket. Another shopper Karen Gibney, who witnessed the act of kindness, mentioned it on Facebook and the tale has now gone viral. A reminder that there are good guys out there - and good people to salute them for what they do.

Pity the poor Wrightbus workers... after all, Stormont’s unemployed still get paid

If Stormont had been up and running would it, could it have done something about the calamity of the Wrightbus closure in Ballymena?

Who's to say? We're not going to find out any time soon.

I have such a deep and abiding affection for Ballymena. The town is where I began my journalistic career. Back then Ballymena was dismissed as a backwater Bible belt. I braced myself for what I assumed would be a dour year or so in Bleakville.

Yet Ballymena was anything but - its people were/are the kindest, the best, truly the salt of the Earth. It was a vibrant, diverse town. It had escaped the worst of the Troubles. In a completely different way, Ballymena was booming.

But in the last few years the town has been ravaged by a succession of job losses. And there will now be a further, wider knock-on effect from the Wrightbus closure.

What the town obviously needs now is help, support and an injection of funding to help shore up the local community.

But, as we say around here, where is Stormont when you need it?

All those Ballymena workers and their families now facing such a difficult and deeply worrying future will be wondering about their representatives - from all parties - who are supposed to be up there fighting their corner.

Our MLAs, all of them, haven't done a hand's turn for three years. And the galling difference between them and the Wrightbus workers?

They may also be out of a job - but the Stormont unemployed still get paid.

Belfast streets a sickening sight

Walking through Belfast you could get the impression it's currently the epicentre of bubonic plague. Every couple of yards along the pavement there's evidence of someone having been sick - ie having boaked. Laying aside the question of why so very many people feel the need to vomit in the city (and what the tourists make of this vile mess) here's another one for Belfast City Council. How come nobody seems to be doing anything about cleaning it up?

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