“Air pollution is just one factor in determining the overall toxicity of the environment. In addition, toxic chemicals are added to pretty much everything we use, including food, household items, personal care and beauty products, toys, furniture and clothing…. Children are most vulnerable to these effects because their immunity is usually weaker than that of an adult. “
While the ecological crisis is now scientifically confirmed, the public health crisis with which it’s associated has received much less attention.
Greta Thunberg, 2018. Anders Hellberg via Wikimedia Commons. CC BY-SA 4.0.
f you follow the news, you must have seen her face. Awkwardly serious and surprisingly mature in speech, 16 year old Greta Thunberg from Sweden is currently one of the hottest names in global politics. Thunberg has been making headlines since 2018 when she first ditched school in order to protest against climate change. She has inspired thousands of people to act with her, collecting numerous accolades for her courageous attitude and countless public appearances.
Thunberg describes herself as a “climate activist with Aspergers.” According to her, this condition is one of the reasons she is able to focus so deeply on the ecological crisis and be a more effective campaigner – to “see through environment lies” as she put it in a recent interview. No wonder she’s now using the greatest ‘gifts’ she unwittingly received in order to fight back.
According to Masha Gessen in the New Yorker, “Greta’s protest serves a dual purpose. It not only calls attention to climate policy, as she intended, but it also showcases the political potential of neurological difference. ‘I see the world a bit different, from another perspective…I have a special interest. It’s very common that people on the autism spectrum have a special interest.”
This makes sense, since according to the National Autistic Society, people with Aspergers often have a tendency towards repetitive patterns of behaviour and a single-minded pursuit of interests. Thunberg’s brain may therefore be wired towards constant action and extraordinary focus, so it is perfectly suited for a tireless fight against global inaction on climate change. “It’s either you are sustainable or not — you can’t be a little bit sustainable” as she puts it. For her, things are as simple as they sound.
What’s not so simple are the connections between environmental factors and our mental and physical wellbeing. Air pollution and an excessive exposure to toxins have been found to affect the brain not only in adults but also in children, because inhaled pollutants can be transferred from the mother to the fetus during pregnancy. According to the World Health Organisation nine out of every ten people breathe toxic air daily. This means that almost every child currently living on the planet or in their mother’s womb is at risk. MORE