German Far Right Party Attacks 16-Year-Old Greta Thunberg Ahead of EU Elections
The far-right German party Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) is increasing its climate denying rhetoric as it prepares for the European elections later this month, singling out 16-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg for particular attack.
AfD has long denied that climate change is caused by the burning of fossil fuels, but it has chosen to emphasize that message more and more in the past year, according to a joint investigation by Greenpeace's Unearthed and counter-extremism group the Institute of Strategic Dialogue (ISD).
"Even going back on their 2016 posts about climate change, the AFD denied human-made climate change on their social media pages. So while the AFD has not shifted its position, the party has decided to communicate it more frequently," ISD extremism researcher Jakob Guhl said.
Germany’s AfD turns on Greta Thunberg as it embraces climate denial - our latest work looking at the campaigns that… https://t.co/ttXBAvWk0r— Institute for Strategic Dialogue (@Institute for Strategic Dialogue)1557848587.0
AfD barely mentioned climate change on its social media channels when it was first founded in 2013, The Guardian reported. That number rose to 300 between 2017 and 2018, then shot up to more than 900 between 2018 and 2019. Much of that focus has been on Thunberg, who was mentioned in nearly 800 posts on the group's Facebook pages in the last year, the investigation found.
The social media focus has been matched by attacks on the Swedish teen from AfD politicians.
"This is not a 'woman of the year' but at best a teenager with autistic prehistory who is burned by her 'advisers' and by willing MSM as a new icon for the 'climate church,'" AfD Member of Parliament (MP) Frank Pasemann tweeted of Thunberg in March.
AfD andidates in the EU parliamentary elections have compared her to a member of the Nazi youth. One candidate, Maximilian Krah, said she had a "psychosis," The Guardian reported.
In the investigation report, Guhl explained why AfD has exploited Thunberg's fame to spread its climate denying agenda:
"The emergence of Greta Thunberg as public figure provided them with a welcome target to communicate their position in a way more appropriate to the dynamics of social media.
"The fact that many mainstream politicians, in particular from the AfD's key political opponent, the Greens, but also CSU-candidates such as Manfred Weber, supported a 16-year old female activist who was virtually unknown until a few months ago, allowed the party to present belief in climate change as irrational, hysteria, panic, cult-like or even as a replacement religion. Attacking Greta, at times in fairly vicious ways, including mocking her for her autism, became a way to portray the AfD's political opponents as irrational."
But attacking Thunberg isn't the only strategy AfD is using to spread its message. AfD environmental spokesperson Karsten Hilse was seen distributing climate denying leaflets at a school strike for climate in Berlin in March. Hilse also invited a slate of speakers who challenge mainstream climate science to speak at Germany's parliament Tuesday.
How Germany's far right AfD is spotlighting climate change denial: 1) attack greta on social media 2) host climate… https://t.co/OapmHLihya— Unearthed (@Unearthed)1557921540.0
"The AfD is using the Bundestag [German parliament] as a stage for its dissemination of climate lies. They invite fake experts to a so-called symposium on climate change to generate content for mass dissemination via social media channels and stir up hatred and anger on the internet," Greenpeace Germany climate campaigner Karsten Smid told The Guardian.
While the right has long spread misinformation about the existence and causes of climate change in the U.S., this has been less common in the EU until recently. The investigation also found a link between climate denying U.S. think tanks and their German counterparts. Tuesday's event was publicized by German think tank the European Institute for Climate and Energy (EIKE), and the group's vice president advises Hilse. EIKE also co-sponsors an annual climate conference with the U.S. Heartland Institute, which funds the spread of misinformation about climate change. For example, it sent a book and DVD set called Why Scientists Disagree About Global Warming to at least 200,000 K-12 teachers in the U.S.
However, the vast majority of Germans are greatly concerned about climate change. While support for AfD is growing, the Green Party is now polling in second place, in Germany, behind its current ruling party.
"Climate change is a major concern among German voters ahead of the European elections," Green Party climate spokesperson Lisa Badum told Unearthed. "A recent poll has shown that 3 out of 4 potential voters in Germany consider climate protection an important factor in their voting decision."
This week marks the official start of fall, but longer nights and colder days can make it harder to spend time outdoors. Luckily, there are several inspiring environmental films that can be streamed at home.
1. Kiss the Ground<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="ccc5f0c92a5603e68aec39e56b0db02a"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/K3-V1j-zMZw?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p><strong>Streaming On: Netflix</strong></p><p><strong>Premiere Date: Sept. 22</strong></p><p>Between <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/wildfires-california-washington-oregon-photos-2647585008.html" target="_self">wildfires devastating the U.S. West Coast</a> and <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tropical-storm-beta-landfall-2647760268.html" target="_self">storms battering the Gulf</a>, the impacts of the <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/climate-change/" target="_self">climate crisis</a> can feel overwhelming right now. <em><a href="https://kissthegroundmovie.com/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Kiss the Ground</a> </em>offers an alternative to all of the bad news by focusing on solutions.</p><p>The film, directed by Josh and Rebecca Tickell and narrated by Woody Harrelson, explains how we can heal the Earth through "regenerative agriculture," farming practices that draw carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and into soil as a way to restore soil health, which in turn boosts ecosystems and food supplies.</p><p>"<em>Kiss the Ground </em>shows how feasible it is to make these changes at a grassroots level immediately and make a truly substantive impact with low cost and easy to implement solutions," Executive Producer RJ Jain said in an email. "This is why I got involved."</p>
2. Public Trust: The Fight for America's Public Lands<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="5338f7a2931e356910026e5fd76fac56"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/jsKMTAaj_wQ?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p><strong>Streaming On: YouTube</strong></p><p><strong>Premiere Date: Sept. 25, 2 p.m. EDT </strong></p><p>This <a href="https://www.patagonia.com/films/public-trust/" target="_blank">award-winning documentary</a> tells the stories of Indigenous activists, journalists, whistleblowers and historians working to protect America's <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/public-lands" target="_self">public lands</a>. The film focuses on three political struggles: the shrinking of <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/bears-ears" target="_self">Bears Ears</a> National Monument in Utah, the mining of Boundary Waters Wilderness in Minnesota and the opening of the <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/Arctic-National-Wildlife-Refuge" target="_self">Arctic National Wildlife Refuge</a> to fossil fuel exploration.</p><p><em>Public Trust</em> was directed by David Garrett Byars and produced by Jeremy Rubingh. Patagonia Films, Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard and actor Robert Redford are executive producers. It will be <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OGjnIG7puzY" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">released</a> on YouTube in time for <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/national-public-lands-day-2640656776.html" target="_self">National Public Lands Day</a>.</p><p>"Our country is fortunate to have millions of acres of public lands, including National Parks, Monuments, Wildlife Refuges and Wilderness set aside for future generations," Redford said. "Sadly, these lands that belong to you and me are under unprecedented threats from the greed of big corporations, eager to weaken restrictions in the pursuit of profits. Many of our current politicians are also to blame. <em>Public Trust</em> tells the story of citizens who are fighting back. It's a much-needed wake-up call for all of us who want to preserve our unique and wild cultural heritage."</p>
3. David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="156438a30836a765d7a92982545fc334"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/B_OFZvAd05Y?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p><strong>Streaming On: Netflix</strong></p><p><strong>Premiere Date: Oct. 4</strong></p><p>Beloved nature broadcaster <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/David-Attenborough" target="_self">David Attenborough</a> has spent his career introducing viewers to the wonders of our planet. In recent years, his footage of albatrosses swallowing <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/plastics" target="_self">plastic</a> in <em>Blue Planet II</em> has been credited with <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/2018-fighting-plastic-waste-2624606566.html" target="_self">helping to ramp up</a> the global fight against plastic pollution. Now, in this <a href="https://www.wwf.org.uk/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">World Wildlife Fund</a> (WWF)-produced <a href="https://www.attenborough.film/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">documentary</a>, he reflects on the defining moments of his career and the devastating changes he has witnessed.</p><p><em>David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet,</em> which was also produced by Silverback Films and directed by Alastair Fothergill, Jonnie Hughes and Keith Scholey, features an intimate conversation between Attenborough and Sir Michael Palin as the broadcaster reflects on his life and a career that took him to every continent on Earth. In addition to streaming on Netflix, the movie will be available in select theaters starting Sept. 28.</p><p>"For decades, David has brought the natural world to the homes of audiences worldwide, but there has never been a more significant moment for him to share his own story and reflections," WWF executive producer Colin Butfield said in a <a href="https://www.wwf.org.uk/updates/david-attenborough-life-our-planet" target="_blank">statement</a>. "This film coincides with a monumental year for environmental action as world leaders make critical decisions on nature and climate. It sends a powerful message from the most inspiring and celebrated naturalist of our time."</p>
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