Oh do leave Greta Thunberg alone you horrible old lot…

Photo: PA

Greta Thunberg is sailing across the Atlantic in a carbon-neutral yacht powered only by the wind and sun – and gales of huffing from a few old fossils on Twitter.

The 16-year-old environmental campaigner should inspire admiration in all of us, even if we find her message hard to swallow. We should feel a little bit of awe that one teenager from Sweden should have such impact, even if we dislike some of her inconvenient truths.

Many of the right seem happy to be hurl hate at Thunberg as she heads for climate conferences in New York and Chile on a no-frills voyage.

The reason they dislike her so is that Thunberg represents everything they disparage. Before following this line of argument, let’s consider an old clip of Nigel Farage having a crafty fag. The Brexit agitator is shown puffing away through his trademark smirk while saying: “I think the doctors have got it wrong about smoking.”

Ahem, no; they’re right and you are wrong, matey; but feel free to creosote your lungs if you wish.

That sort of stubborn refusal to believe the undeniable truth is also typical of those who deny our climate is changing due to man’s activities. They spout whatever nonsense comes to mind and ignore the mounting evidence.

Don’t blame them in a sense, but we’ll come to that in a moment. First let’s expose the nastiness of adults who should know better. Two tweets today bob along in this unpleasant undercurrent.

Terrible tweet number one: Arron Banks, chum to Farage and mysterious funder of Brexit. Banks tweeted: “Freak yachting accidents do happen in August…”

Oh, lovely. A rich old climate denier seemingly wishing a horrible accident on a 16-year-old girl. If that man had a soul it would shrivel for shame.

Terrible tweet number two: The right-wing broadcaster and general pest Julie Harley-Brewer weighed in with: “Hi Greta, I’ve just booked some long haul flights for my family to enjoy some winter sun on the beach this Christmas. Level of guilt being felt: 0%”

The only necessary response to that came from John Crace, Parliamentary sketch writer on the Guardian: “Level of twatishness: 100%”.

The writer Matt Haig, a splendid Twitter warrior with 323,000 followers (including me), can always be depended on to speak the truth – and the right-wing warriors hate him, too.

Often his tweets concern mental health, based on his own near suicide 20 years ago. His response to Banks was: “An unbelievable tweet. What a sad shrivel-hearted bully this man is. Greta troubles exactly the right people.”

Haig also pointed out in another tweet that we should never overlook young people and should remember that Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein when she was aged 18; and Mozart composed a symphony at the age of eight.

Flinging sour spite at a remarkable 16-year-old says much more about the abusers than it does about Greta Thunberg. Yet it is still possible to feel uncomfortable about her message; even if that too says more about you than it does about Greta.

A pious article in the Guardian last week hymned people who were taking the train for their holidays. Fine if you are heading to France, say, but more difficult if you wish to travel further. Our three-week holiday to Australia two years ago would have been impossible without a long-haul flight. Will such trips be banned or totally frowned on in the future?

The thing is, most of us tend to take a pick-and-mix approach to green matters. I cycle when possible but have a car for longer journeys; I fly only occasionally (but would fly more if funds permitted).

So, yes, listening to Greta Thunberg is uncomfortable if you’re from the carbon-frittering generation. But not half so uncomfortable as listening to what Will Hutton in the Observer last Sunday called “the rancid old order” – the Trump/Farage/Johnson brigade with their climate denying and their arrogant no-deals.

The no-deal Brexiteers, Hutton argues, have no true force behind them; same with Trump, too. “They are the losers, on the wrong side of history. Better people will enter politics…”

Better people such as Greta Thunberg, perhaps. Bon voyage, Greta.

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