A Strange World

Goldene Kamera Film and TV Awards. Berlin, March 30, 2019


“We live in a strange world,” Thunberg says. The world is about eleven years away from an irreversible chain reaction that will probably destroy civilization as we know it, but people do not act concerned. Politicians carry on as usual, more worried about the struggling fossil fuel industry than about the global climate. Others are more worried about protesting children missing school. Football games and film galas get more media attention than the biggest crisis humanity has ever faced. Celebrities like those in her audience are part of the problem, unwilling to give up their jet-set lifestyle. “People see you celebrities as gods,” she says. “You can help us wake up our leaders—and let them know that our house is on fire.” This strange world is the only world we have, and there is still time to save it.


This speech stands out because Thunberg employs a rhetorical strategy that she doesn’t use in any of her other speeches. Speaking to an audience composed largely of celebrities in the arts, Thunberg avoids the accusatory tone she usually adopts when addressing adults and public figures. Instead of relying on her favorite metaphors, Thunberg repeats the introductory phrase “We live in a strange world where…” to highlight the baffling realities that humanity, and especially young people, now face. This technique allows her to identify problems without directly accusing her audience of wrongdoing or failure. Instead, she simply conveys the absurdity of a world in which celebrities refuse to stand up for the environment out of sheer apathy. She follows this relatively gentle reminder with a direct appeal to celebrities to use their influence to address climate change. While this is essentially the same argument she uses when she demands that politicians do their jobs, it is framed as an urgent request than an accusation.