Opinion: Why white, middle-aged men are so angry with Greta Thunberg

A wave of white, middle-class male outrage swept across the globe this week after a 16-year-old Swedish girl named Greta Thunberg gave an impassioned speech at the UN gathering on climate change. 

Thunberg, who sailed to New York for the gathering so as not to add to the climate change crisis she says the world is facing, fixed a steely glare at the assembled audience before delivering a speech that polarised the world. 

"You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words," Thunberg said in a voice that wavered between anger and despair.

"The eyes of all future generations are upon you. And if you choose to fail us I say we will never forgive you. 

"We will not let you get away with this. Right here, right now is where we draw the line," Thunberg warned. 

Across the globe white, middle-aged men on talk shows and radio shows picked up their microphones, ran a hand through their thinning hair, and almost to a man condemned Thunberg for being a brat, who should be at school studying instead of lecturing us on what we have done wrong. 

Even the leader of the free world, US President Donald Trump, who has denied climate change is an issue, weighed in. Trump sarcastically tweeted: "She seems like a very happy young girl looking forward to a bright and wonderful future. So nice to see!"

It was not only Donald who was outraged. 

The Australian columnists Andrew Bolt wrote in the Herald Sun:  

"I have never seen a girl so young and with so many mental disorders treated by so many adults as a guru." 

While Fox News in the US apologised after the panel guest Michael Knowles also called Thunberg mentally ill. 

"None of that matters because the climate hysteria movement is not about science. If it were about science it would be led by scientists rather than by politicians and a mentally ill Swedish child who is being exploited by her parents and by the international left," Knowles said.

Thunberg wasn't spared the vitriol in New Zealand when two middle class, middle-aged heavyweights of news weighed in. 

Newstalk ZB's Mike Hosking was quick out of the blocks with his condemnation of Thunberg, stating in an opinion piece

"But there is sadly no hiding the fact she suffers, like so many of her climate change lot, from a fantastic sense of self-entitlement. And it's that quality that damages the cause more than anything else."

While Newshub's Duncan Garner in another opinion piece said: 

"And Greta Thunberg? Sorry, but a hero for the young people?

She totally overplayed her hand at the UN - too dramatic.

It turns people off and has the opposite effect. 

Do your bit but don't become a climate freak. It's a turn-off and it's frankly counterproductive."

Why did Thunberg's speech send the Baby Boomer and Generation X commentators into meltdown? 

Here is why, and before I say, I too am a middle-aged, middle class, white male, it is because we have, like Thunberg says, known about the threat of an ecological disaster for 30 years. 

There were warnings in the late 1980s that global warming, brought on by man's influence on the planet, could cause sea levels to rise. 

That is not all.  We have also turned a blind eye to scientific reports Earth is heading into its sixth mass extinction, again due to man's influence on the planet.  

The warnings were there, we chose to ignore them. And now when a 16-year-old girl points that out, we are too arrogant to admit we were wrong. It is that simple. 

We reject the scientific arguments because that means we have to accept we have screwed up the world. 

When we should have heeded the warnings in the 1980s we instead picked up Gordon Gekko's mantra that greed is good and embarked on a three-decade-long spree of hedonistic living. 

We thought we could sort it out later, but now it seems it might be too late. And when a voice from a younger generation questions that, instead of listening we resort to insulting it. 

Thunberg didn't seem to bemused by the criticism, responding when asked she was not surprised people are trying to silence her.  

"I guess they must feel like their world view or their interests or whatever... is threatened by us. 

"We've become too loud for people to handle so they try to silence us," she told reporters. 

"We should also take that as a compliment."

Mark Longley is the managing editor of Newshub