Paying tribute to someone is a great way to show how much they are respected and appreciated. It’s especially nice when members of our youth are celebrated for their achievements, but sometimes – many times – politics get in the way, and children end up becoming a pawn for activists with their own agendas. Greta Thunberg, the young Swedish climate change activist, is a good example, and people have gone a bit nuts over the new mural painted of her likeness in San Francisco, CA.
The 60-foot-tall by 30-foot-wide painting of the 16-year-old was placed on the Native Sons building on Mason Street by Argentinean artist Andrés Pereoselli, or “Nino Cobre” as he likes to be called. Pereoselli is also the artist who painted Robin Williams’ partial face on Market Street in 2018. He is known for his depictions of eyes, but in Thunberg’s case, he captured a telling portrait.
Everyone’s an Art Critic
Sponsored by the environmental nonprofit organization One Atmosphere, the mural is one of a new series of artworks that highlights climate activists. “Greta’s importance to fight against climate change is unmistakable,” the nonprofit said, giving credit to the girl for giving “youth a more powerful voice than ever before.”
Borrowing Thunberg’s now infamous phrase, many opponents of the newest artwork are saying, “How dare you!” Some consider the homage a twist of irony since spray paint and other chemicals harmful to the atmosphere were used to create the dedication to a climate activist.
One Atmosphere felt compelled to rebut the accusation on Instagram, saying “the vast majority of the paint is water-based acrylic exterior paint that was rolled onto the building by hand.” The group added that only the finishing details used a different type of paint, but that those have minimal environmental impact. In fact, they argued, even the lift used to take the artist to the top of the eight-story building is electric, and all empty paint cans and boxes will be reused or recycled. The artist himself also defended his work, adding, “The thing is, the sprays I use are eco-friendly, and most of the paint is hand-painted with a roller. [It is] water-based so there is zero impact.” One Atmosphere added that the artist and organizers traveled to the project site almost exclusively by electric car, electric scooter, or on foot.
Critics were not to be silenced, however. Many compared the portrait to images of Russian President Vladimir Putin or spooky T.V. character Wednesday Addams. Others complained the tribute was all nonsense since the Swedish youth has yet to do anything about climate change. One person tweeted, “She has done literally nothing except yell at a room of old people,” referring to the girl’s attendance at a United Nations meeting.
Only a Girl
San Francisco is not the first place to unveil the teen’s likeness in a mural. A feature in Bristol, England, pictures the activist partially underwater, while another one was painted in Canada on a “free wall” along a bicycle path. The latter image was defaced twice.
The sad truth is that both sides of the political divide tend to forget that the teenager is reacting to what society has taught her. Thunberg has demonstrated her feelings in angry bursts – as she has learned from the adults around her. She can do more than yell, complain, and blame all adults for the “certain” death of the planet in 12 years, but until the older generations show today’s young people a better way, this is something we can likely expect to become normal with the next generations. Condemning the child isn’t the answer; she has enough of that right now. Feeding her half-truths plus doom-and-gloom end-of-the-world scenarios isn’t either. What she, and all the younger generations (and adults), needs is an unbiased education taught by respectful and educated professionals.
Read more from Kelli Ballard.