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Grand Rapids-based Acton Institute commentators attack Greta Thunberg, calling her ideas pathological

October 6, 2019

There have been numerous detractors of the young Swedish activist Greta Thunberg over the past few weeks, especially after her speech to heads of state at the United Nations.

Many of the responses to Thunberg have been reactionary, especially when Greta and the growing global climate justice movement places much of the blame for the current climate crisis on the economic system of capitalism.

Therefore, it is no surprise that the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty would post recent articles critical of the young Swedish activist. In fact, in addition to their staunch defense of capitalism, the Acton Institute has been part of the climate denial sector on numerous levels. 

  • According to, the Acton Institute between 1998 and 2007, received $315,000 from Exxon Mobil. Exxon Mobil funded dozens of groups, Like Acton, for the purpose of climate denial. 
  • During the same time period( mid-2000s), the Acton Institute showed a climate denial film at the Wealthy Street theater, which was well attended by their members.
  • In July of 2016, nineteen U.S. Senators delivered a series of speeches denouncing climate change denial from 32 organizations with links to fossil-fuel interests, including the Acton Institute. 

The Acton Institute posted two articles within the past week that were critical of Greta Thunberg and the global movement that she is part of.

One article is from Jordan Ballor, a research fellow at the Acton Institute and someone who got his PH.D. at the Calvin Theological Seminary. Ballor soft pedals his critique of Thunberg early on in the article and attempts to frame the climate issue as religious and moral. 

However, towards the end of Ballor’s article he openly defends the nuclear power and renewable and sustainable. The Acton research fellow then states:

Energy policy and practice must also take into account the challenges of the responsible stewardship of fossil fuels and the tradeoffs involved with moves from coal to natural gas, for instance.

There is no responsible use of fossil fuels and the global climate scientist community has made it clear that fossil fuels must be eliminated in the not to distant future, if we are to have a future.

Ballor takes the gloved off at the end of the article and says:

As laudable as the intentions of activists like Thunberg might be, pathos unmoored from reason becomes pathological.

Here, the Acton Institute research fellow clearly seeks to discredit Thunberg and activists like her, concluding that what these activists are calling for is “pathological.”

The second article recently posted on the Acton Institute’s site, is from the director of a Conservative Christian think tank in Sweden, the Clapham Institute. Per Ewert spends the first part of his article making the claim that he may have inspired Greta to become an activist. Once Ewart stops talking about himself, he then sets his sights on bashing Greta and the global climate justice movement. Ewart states: 

In her speeches Greta has repeatedly, and apparently with growing frustration, declared that politicians do nothing, and that the causes behind the climate threats are found in the capitalist system. But both claims are untrue. Instead, the climate situation calls for skilled and bold entrepreneurs who can invent, and market, climate-benefitting tools for the twenty-first century. The solution lies in making such decisions that would make a real change, instead of sending general accusations against those who are making a positive impact.

Again, we see an Acton Institute contributor defending the system of capitalism. Well, they don’t actually defend capitalism, because Ewart offers no real evidence that Capitalism is the root cause of climate change, he simply says that Greta’s claim is untrue. Ewart then goes on to say that what is needed are bold entrepreneurs who can invent and market climate-benefiting tools. This is such bullshit! Entrepreneurs operating within the capitalist system are the very cause of the climate crisis, along with the idea that climate-benefiting tools can be invested and marketed. THIS is the problem. We think that technology or anything that can be commodified will save us.

Ewart continues to attack Greta by saying that her comments are the United Nations were “downright dangerous.” Greta said, everything needs to change. And it has to start today.” Ewart considers this dangerous language and then calls it a revolutionary phrase that in the past has turned out bad for people.

The director of the Conservative Christian think tank then concludes with this observation:

Adults need to manage the balance of making wise and reflective decisions, while simultaneously avoiding the perils of panic and adopting a child’s engaged but still limited worldview. Therefore, instead of attacking the capitalist system, both Greta and people of goodwill around the world should be directing our focus against, for instance, China and other large coal users, to make them abandon their coal industry. That would create the real results that the young movement around Greta needs.

Here Ewart demonstrates that he is agist, dismissing youth and claiming that adults are wise. Adults, are in fact, the ones who are responsible for the climate crisis, especially those who are the heads of global corporations and governments. China and India are two of the largest consumers of coal, but that also is related to the fact that they have much larger populations than the US or European countries. In fact, when it comes to per capita fossil fuel consumption, the US is way above all other countries.

Ewart could have made the links between the US military and climate change, especially considering the fact that the Pentagon is the single largest institutional consumer of fossil fuels in the world

That the Acton commentator simply blames other countries, further demonstrates his bias to not critique the world’s former colonial powers and the most imperialist country on the planet, the United States of American. However, this is consistent with Acton’s ideological framework, which is to defend not only US imperialism, but the sectors of wealth that have benefited greatly from the system of capitalism.

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