Greta Thunberg is a 16-year-old Swedish student whose fiery visions have persuaded the British and Irish parliaments to proclaim a “climate emergency.” Greta’s parents, actor Svante Thunberg and opera singer Malena Ernman, are just regular parents who aspire to save the world. If you question their motivations, you risk being accused of “climate denial” or bullying a vulnerable Asperger’s child. Green lobbyists, public relations hustlers, eco-academics, and a think-tank created by a wealthy ex-minister in Sweden’s Social Democratic administration with ties to the country’s energy industries have all been involved in the Greta phenomena. These businesses are gearing up for the largest government contract bonanza in history: the greening of Western economies. Greta is the face of their political plan, whether she and her parents realize it or not.
Greta began a one-girl “school strike” at the Swedish parliament on the morning of August 20, 2018, according to the family. Ingmar Rentzhog, the creator of the social networking network We Have No Time, was passing by. Rentzhog was so moved that he shared Greta’s photo on his personal Facebook page. Greta’s tale and face were on the website of the daily Dagens Nyheter by late afternoon. The remainder of it has gone viral.
However, this isn’t the whole tale. Rentzhog, a media mogul, wrote me in an email that he “met Greta for the first time” at the parliament and that he “did not know Greta or Greta’s parents” before then. Rentzhog, on the other hand, admits to meeting Greta Ernman’s mother Malena Ernman “3-4 months before anything started”—in early May 2018, when he and Malena shared a platform at a conference called the Climate Parliament. Rentzhog did not happen upon Greta’s protest by chance. He now confesses that he was notified “the week before” by “a mailing list from a climate activist” named Bo Thorén, the leader of the Fossil Free Dalsland movement.
An earlier email from Bo Thorén’s appeal for fresh green faces was uncovered by independent journalist Rebecca Weidmo Uvell. Thorén called a group of environmental activists, academics, and politicians to a meeting in February 2018 to discuss “how we can involve and obtain help from young people to accelerate the transition to a sustainable society.” Following Greta’s second-place finish in the newspaper Svenska Dagbladet’s environmental op-ed writing competition in May, Thorén approached all of the competition winners with a plan for a “school strike,” modeled after the student walk-outs in Parkland, Florida. Greta’s mother states, “But no one seemed interested, so Greta decided to do it for herself.”
Fortunately, Greta’s choice coincided with the release of Svante and Malena’s memoir, Scenes from the Heart, on how rescuing the world had rescued their family. Unfortunately, Malena failed to inform her publisher that Greta’s act had been hijacked by Ingmar Rentzhog.
Jonas Axelsson, Malena’s editor, adds, “We had an issue.” Journalists inquired if it was a book promotion. It wasn’t the case at all. It was a dreadful experience.”
Ingmar Rentzhog, on the other hand, was living a dream. Greta became a viral sensation when Rentzhog merged Thorén’s strategy and Malena Ernman’s musical popularity with Greta’s amazing charisma and We Have No Time’s email list.
“I did not invent Greta,” Rentzhog claims, “but I assisted in the dissemination of her work to an international audience.”
We Don’t Have Time was founded in late 2017 by Rentzhog, who was trained by Al Gore’s Climate Reality Project to “hold politicians and business accountable for climate change” by harnessing “the power of social media.” Rentzhog and his CEO, David Olsson, have backgrounds in finance rather than environmental activism, with Rentzhog founding Laika, an investment relations firm, and Olsson working at Svenska Bostadsfonden, one of Sweden’s largest real estate funds, which Rentzhog joined on the board in June 2017. Gustav Stenbeck, whose family owns Kinnevik, one of Sweden’s largest investing organizations, was one of We Don’t Have Time’s investors.
We Don’t Have Time’s Rentzhog and Olsson were named chairman and board member of Global Utmaning in May 2018. (Global Challenge). Kristina Persson, the company’s founder, is the heir to an industrial fortune. She has worked as a trade unionist and a politician for the Social Democrats since the party’s golden moment under Olof Palme. She’s also a former deputy governor of Sweden’s central bank and a New Ager who’s spoken about rebirth and communication with the dead. Persson served in Stefan Lofven’s Social Democratic Cabinet as “Minister for the Future” from 2014 until 2016.
The ten-member board of Global Challenge includes Petter Skogar, president of Sweden’s largest employer’s association. Johan Lindholm, the chairman of the Union of Construction Workers and a member of the executive board of the Social Democrats, is in the same boat. Anders Wijkman, president of the Club of Rome, chair of the Environmental Objectives Council, and a recipient of Bo Thorén’s appeal for young mobilization in February 2018, is one of them. Catherina Nystedt Ringborg, former CEO of Swedish Water, counselor to the International Energy Agency, and former vice-president of Swedish-Swiss energy conglomerate ABB, is in the same boat.
Catherina Ringborg is also a member of Sustainable Energy Angels, a green energy venture finance firm. Its membership is a who’s who of Sweden’s energy industry. Four of Sustainable Energy Angels’ 17 members, including the president and chair of the investment committee, are former ABB employees.
Rentzhog was a salaried chairman of a private think-tank owned by an ex-Social Democrat minister with a history in the energy sector when Greta met him. His board of directors was filled with powerful sectoral interests, including professional Social Democrats, prominent union leaders, and Brussels-connected lobbyists. And one of Sweden’s most important green energy investment groups had a vice-chair on his board.
Greta and her parents were most likely unaware of this. Rentzhog appears to have like it that way. Dagens Nyheter published a long op-ed on September 2, 2018, a week after Rentzhog claimed to have stumbled across Greta, calling for “bottom-up” action against national governments, including “broad social mobilization… reminiscent of what occurs in communities threatened by war.” One of the nine signatures was Greta’s mother. Kristina Persson, the former Minister for the Future, and three other members of the Global Challenge board of directors signed the op-ed, but stated other ties. Rentzhog was the only one who admitted to being involved with Global Challenge.
Rentzhog and Wijkman are listed as writers in an English edition of the essay. “Many of us participating with Global Challenge were also involved in writing it,” Rentzhog alleges. He confesses that he showed Malena Ernman “the article and other signatures, but not their Global Challenge titles.”
Svante, Greta’s father, who now spends his time to managing her career, rebuffed my interview requests and refused to respond to a long list of written questions about Ingmar Rentzhog and Global Challenge. Instead, Svante used an intermediary to issue a three-paragraph evasive statement. He claims that “neither I nor Greta feel equipped to answer” queries about Rentzhog’s business ties and when the family may have been aware of them. We Have No Time or Global Challenge, according to Svante, are two organizations with which “we have never cooperated.” Nonetheless, between November 2018 and January 2019, Greta served on the advisory board of We Have No Time, and Malena Ernman signed a letter alongside four Global Challenge board members.
“I don’t know, maybe I did,” Rentzhog said when I asked if he had introduced Greta and her parents to other Global Challenge board members. “But if Svante says no, maybe it wasn’t connected.” Svante refuses to say if he and Greta have met members of the Global Challenge board of directors. But Anders Wijkman, a member of the Global Challenge board of directors, remembers.
The anti-growth Club of Rome is led by Wijkman. A Limit to Growth?, published in 1972, has become a cornerstone of the “climate emergency” campaign. We Have No Time and Global Challenge launched the Climate Emergency Plan, the Club of Rome’s next vision of Armageddon, in December 2018. Greta was invited to the launch event, but she was unable to attend due to a prior commitment to give a TED Talk, according to Rentzhog.
Greta’s talking points are the talking points of the Climate Emergency Plan. “We will be in a position where we start off an irreversible chain reaction beyond human control that will most likely lead to the end of our civilisation as we know it around the year 2030,” the Scandinavian Cassandra told British legislators. The only way to save ourselves is to implement the Climate Emergency Plan, which calls for significant government investment and emergency legislation to green the global energy industry immediately. Greta is seen as crucial by Wijkman of the Club of Rome in pushing the “climate emergency” strategy on Europe’s political class.
“We had many scientists and climate experts who have been speaking in terms of emergency for a lot of years,” he told me, “but the concept of emergency has only just been more or less accepted.”
Greta, according to Wijkman, was “important” in this breakthrough. “Only half a year ago, young people didn’t seem to care, but today it’s clear that they do. As a result, she’s served as a lightning rod or catalyst for this.”
Has Greta’s rise been aided by Ingmar Rentzhog?
Wijkman agrees, albeit he finds it difficult to quantify. “I’m not sure how much of an influence he has. Greta, her father, and her mother, I believe, are quite talented.”
Svante, Greta’s father, believes that she “accounts for herself and acts independently of any organization or individual.” Greta, though, has “good advisers,” according to Wijkman, including climate change scientist Kevin Anderson. Anderson maintains that all he does is “discuss” Greta’s thoughts and “edit” her writings. “I know he’s given her a lot of substantive advice,” Wijkman says.
Greta’s face and story were featured in advertising materials for a new endeavor in January by Rentzhog and We Have No Time. Rentzhog stated that the family was aware of the situation, while Greta and her parents asserted that they were not. They announced the end of their relationship with Rentzhog, which is odd given Svante’s allegation that they had never worked with him in the first place. Greta’s new press representative, Daniel Donner, works for the European Climate Foundation, a Brussels lobbying group. We Don’t Have Time, on the other hand, continues to retweet Greta as if nothing has changed. In some ways, nothing has changed. Regardless of what Greta or her parents know or believe, Greta’s eco-mob raises the chances of legislation and investment that will benefit companies like Global Challenge, We Don’t Have Time, and Sustainable Energy Angels. Saving the earth means government contracts to print the green stuff for Sweden’s energy tycoons. Green energy lobbyists use scare tactics and a children’s crusade to circumvent elected officials, but their goal is technocracy, not democracy, and profit over redistribution. Greta, a product of awake capitalism, is being utilized to facilitate the shift to green capitalism.
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