Greta Thunberg is just an ordinary 16-year-old Swedish schoolgirl whose fiery visions have convinced the parliaments of Britain and Ireland to declare a "climate emergency." Her parents, actor Svante Thunberg and opera singer Malena Ernman, are just an ordinary pair of parent-managers who want to save the planet. Query their motives, and you risk being accused of "climate denial," or of bullying a vulnerable child with Asperger’s.
The Greta-phenomenon has involved aggressive lobbyists, PR hustlers, eco-academics and a think-tank founded by a wealthy ex-minister in Sweden’s Social Democratic government with links to the country’s energy companies. These companies are preparing for the biggest bonanza of government contracts in history: the greening of the World’s economies.
Little Greta, whether she is aware of it or not, is the face of their political strategy.
The Thunbergs’ story is that Greta launched a one-girl school strike at the Swedish parliament on the morning of August 20, 2018. Ingmar Rentzhog, the founder of the campaign-platform We Don’t Have Time (WDHT), happened to be passing. Inspired, he shared Greta’s photo on strike on his personal Facebook page. By late afternoon, the newspaper Dagens Nyheter had done the same on its website, on the next morning Greta was already viral.
But this isn’t the full story. In emails. media entrepreneur Rentzhog told me that he met Greta for the first time at the parliament, and that he did not know her or her parents before then. Yet in the same emails, he admitted to meeting Greta’s mother three or four month before everything started — in early May 2018, when he and Malena had shared a stage at a conference called "Climate Parliament". Nor did Rentzhog stumble on Greta’s protest by accident. He now admits to had been informed a week ahead by a mailing list from a "climate activist" named Bo Thorén, leader of the Fossil Free Dasland group.
Journalist Rebecca Weidmo Uvell has obtained an earlier email from Thorén’s search for fresh "green faces." In February 2018, he invited a group of activists, academics and politicians to plan how to involved young people to increase the pace of the transition to a "sustainable society." In May, after Greta won second prize in an environmental op-ed writing competition run by the newspaper Svenska Dagbladet, Thorén approached all the competition winners with a plan for a "school strike," modelled on the student walk-outs after the shootings at Parkland, Florida. "But no one was interested", Greta’s mother claims, "So Greta decided to di it for herself".
Fortunately, Greta’s decision coincided with the publication of Scenes from the Heart, Svante und Malena’s memoir of how saving the planet had saved their family. Unfortunately, Malena omitted to tell her publisher that Ingmar Rentzhog had commandeered Greta’s stunt. We had a problem, says Malena’s editor, Jonas Axelsson. "Journalists asked if it was promotion for the book. It wasn’t at all. It was a nightmare". It was, however, a dream for Rentzhog. When he combined Thorén’s plan and Malena’s popularity with Greta’s uncanny charisma and the mailing list from We Have No Time, he turn the child into a viral celebrity. I have not invented Greta, Rentzhog insists, but I helped to spread her action to an international audience."
Trained by Al Gore’s Climate Reality Project, Rentzhog set up WDHT in late 2017 to hold leaders and companies accountable for climate change by leveraging "the power of social media". Rentzhog and his CEO David Olsson have backgrounds in finance, not environmental sciences, Rentzhog as the founder of Laika, an investment relations company, and Olsson with Svenska Bostadsfonden, one of Sweden’s biggest real state funds, whose board Rentzhog joined in June 2017. WDHT’s investors included Gustav Stenbeck, whose family control Kinnevik, one of Sweden’s largest investment corporation.
In May 2018, Rentzhog and Olsson became chairman and board members of a think-tank called Global Utmaning (GC). Its founder, Kristina Persson, is an heir to an industrial fortune. She is a career trade unionist and a social democrat politician going back to the party’s golden age under Olof Palme. She is also an ex-deputy governor of Sweden’s central bank and a new ager who has discussed her reincarnations and communication with the dead. Between 2014 and 2016, Persson served as "Minister for the Future" in the social democratric government of Stefan Lofven.
Petter Skogar, president of Sweden’s biggest employers association, is on GC’s ten-person board. So is Johan Lindholm, chairman of the union of construction workers and member od the social democrats’ executive board. So is Anders Wijkman, president of the Club of Rome, chair of the Environmental Objectives Council, and a recipient in February 2018 of Thorén’s call for "youth mobilisation". So is Catherina Nystedt Ringborg, former CEO of Swedish Water, advisor at the International Energy Agency, and former vice-president and chair of investment committee are former ABB personnel, so are four of its 17 members.
When Greta met Rentzhog, he was the salaried chairman of a private think-tank owned by a social democrat ex-minister with a background in the energy sector. His board was stacked with powerful sectoral interests, including career social democrats, major union leaders, and lobbyist with links to Brussels. And his board’s vice-chair was a member of one of Sweden’s most powerful green energy investment groups.
Greta and her parents probably did not know this. Rentzhog seems to have wanted to keep it that way. On September 2, 2018, a week after Rentzhog claimed to have stumbled on Greta, Dagens Nyheter ran a long op-ed on the need to force the "greening" of the global economy by "bottom-up" action against national governments, including "broad social mobilisations […] reminiscent of what takes place in communities threatened by war". Greta’s mother was one of the nine signatories. Kristina Persson and three other GC board members signed the op-ed but cited other affiliations. Only Rentzhog admitted that he was associated with GC.
An English edition of the article identifies Rentzhog and Wijkman as its authors. Rentzhog claims that may of us involved in GC were also involved in writing it. He admits that he showed Malena Ernman "the article and the other signatures, but not their titles for GC."
Greta’s father Svante, who now devotes himself to managing her career, declined my interview requests and refused to reply to a detailed list of written questions about Rentzhog and GC. Instead, Svante issued an evasive three-paragraph statement through an intermediary. He says that neither I nor Greta "feel qualify to answer" questions about Rentzhog’s business connections, and when the family might have known about them. Svante also claims that they "have never worked with" WDHT or GC. Yet Greta served on their advisory board between November 2018 and January 2019, and Malena Ernman signed a letter with four GC board members.
When I asked Rentzhog if he had introduced Greta and her Parents to other GC bopard members, he replied, "I don’t know, maybe I did, but if Svante says no, maybe it was not connected". Svante refuses to answer my questions about whether he and Greta have met members of the GC board. But Wijkman remembers.
Wijkman leads the Club of Rome. Its alarmist 1972 report, A Limit to Growth?, has become a cornerstone of the "climate emergency" campaign. In December 2018, WDHT and GC launched the Club of Rome’s latest vision of apocalypse, the Climate Emergency Plan. Greta, Rentzhog told me, was invited to the launch event, but was unable to attend as she was already booked to deliver a TED Talk.
The Climate Emergency Plan’s talking points are Greta’s talking points. "Around the year 2030, in ten years, 250 days, and ten hours," the Scandinavian Cassandra told British parliamentarians, "we will be in a position where we set off an irreversible chain reaction beyond human control that will most likely lead to the end of our civilisation as we know it." The only way to save ourselves is to follow the Climate Emergency Plan, and instantly green the global energy business through massive government investment and emergency legislation. Wijkman sees Greta as vital to pushing this strategy on the European Union’s political class. "We had many scientist and climate researchers who’ve been speaking in terms of emergency for a number of years", he told me, but it’s only now, in the last couple of months, that the concept of emergency gas been more or less accepted". Greta, Wijkman says, has been "instrumental" to this breakthrough. "Young people seemed not to pay much attention only half a year ago, but now obviously they do. So she has been a lightning rod or catalyst of this."
Has Ingmar Rentzhog been essential to Greta’s rise? "Yes, yes," Wijkman agrees, though he finds it hard to qualify. "I don’t know how much he’s been influential. I think that Greta and her parents are quite skilled." Greta’s father claims she "acts independently of any organisation or individual." But Wijkman says Greta has "good advisers", such as climate change professor Kevin Anderson, who claims only to "discuss" Greta’s ideas and "correct" her manuscripts. "I know that he has given her a lot of advice in terms of substance," Wijkman says.
In January, Rentzhog and WDHT used Greta’s face and story in promotional materials for a share issue for a new venture. Rentzhog claimed that the family knew, but Greta and her parents insisted that they did not. They announced that their association with Rentzhog was over — a curious statement, considering that Svante claims they never associated with him in the first place. Greta’s new PR agent, Daniel Donner, works from the office of a Brussels lobby group, the European Climate Foundation. Still WDHT echoes Greta as if nothing has changed. In a way, nothing has.
Whatever Greta or her parents know or think, her "eco-mob" increases the likelihood of legislation and investment that will make colossal profit for people like Global Utmaning and We Don’t Have Time. For Sweden’s energy titans, saving the planet means government contracts to print the green stuff. "Green energy" lobbyists use populist tactics and a child’s face to bypass elected representatives, but their goal is technocracy not democracy, profit instead of redistribution. Greta Thunberg, a child of woke capitalism, is being used to ease the transition to green corporatism.
A very corporate children's crusade
First published May 30 2019
Democracy Now!: Greta Thunberg condemns the world’s inaction on climate change. (December 13, 2018)