Environmental activist Greta Thunberg, 16, delivers an emotional and blistering speech at the United Nations Climate Action Summit on Sept. 23, 2020.

Environmental activist Greta Thunberg, 16, delivers an emotional and blistering speech at the United Nations Climate Action Summit on Sept. 23, 2020.

After you watch Greta Thunberg’s speech a second or third time, after your heart rate slows, after your guilt subsides (a bit) — read the transcript.

Franklin Foer of The Atlantic wrote about the counterintuitive power of her child-like appearance, her “jarring monotone” and her use of the “accusatory second person” to jar people out of their delusions. Jennifer O’Connell of The Irish Times dug into why a single, small teenager is so “triggering” for some, especially for some men, and lashed back at the shaming that Greta is subject to on social media. Both referred, briefly, to Greta’s speaking style.

So study, for a moment, the actual transcript of her speech at the U.N. Climate Action Summit earlier this week. The writing is just as powerful as the delivery.

Short, declarative sentences fall like hammer blows, making her message unequivocal.

“This is all wrong. I shouldn’t be up here. I should be back in school on the other side of the ocean.”

She damns us with truth, sometimes with simple pronouns (emphasis mine):

“They also rely on my generation sucking hundreds of billions of tons of your CO2 out of the air with technologies that barely exist.”

Structurally, Greta sandwiches science between raw emotion and climate facts. Rhetorically, she returns to the dual themes of outrage —

“how dare you pretend that this can be solved with just ‘business as usual'”

— and scrutiny —

“we’ll be watching you.”

And we’ll be watching Greta, with awe.

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