Ethiek and Maatschappij 22 (1-2):33-55 (2020)
AbstractGreta Thunberg has rapidly become a household name due to her passionate involvement in the youth climate movement. However, Thunberg has also received criticism, among other things for her anger. Is such anger really productive, people ask, or is it harming the cause of climate justice? In this article, I examine that question from a philosophical perspective. I look at two commonly mentioned disadvantages of anger, namely that it is a retributive emotion and that it reduces uptake of one’s message, and I provide some reasons why these might not be disadvantageous after all. Then, I look at four different advantages of anger: its motivational power, its revolutionary potential, its use for community building, and its epistemic value. Each of these points is linked back to the climate movement as it is personified by Greta Thunberg, in order to analyse the anger that is at times very prominent in her activist message. While a definite conclusion about the productivity of Thunberg’s anger is difficult to reach, I conclude that her anger should be listened to regardless, since we have much to learn from it.
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