The burden of celebrity

Luca Silipo
4 min readAug 7, 2019
Greta Thunberg — here in a beautiful photo by Lionel Bonaventure (AFP/Getty Images) — has successfully achieved phase one of her mission. The second, decisive phase requires changes, from all of us and from her. These changes are discussed in this post.

I have been a supporter of Greta Thunberg from the very start of her adventure. I thought — and time so validated — that the action of a young, innocent girl had the potential to decisively mobilise the civil society beyond the fringe of environmental activists. The result of this has been a spectacular success: Greta indeed placed climate emergency at the heart of daily conversations, whether in the media or our everyday life.

This has been a remarkable feat, a force against the very gravity of our increasing apathy, our passive attitude towards everything that is bringing us to catastrophe: environmental change, but also social nihilism, the spectacularization of politics, intolerance…

Yet, with all its power, it is merely the first step. As difficult it has been to assemble tenth of millions of adoring, active fans around the world (and a plethora of haters, always a sign of active success…), the road ahead will be even harder.

Beyond a minority of hard-liners, Greta has now what I call ‘intermittent’ followers. These are well-minded people who have just been shaken up from their sleepwalking and support Greta and the cause with enthusiasm. Yet, most of them still drive diesel cars, unnecessarily chose planes rather than trains, request same-day delivery for their e-purchases. They buy products without any personal effort to understand their real environmental footprint. They don’t consider sustainability policies when they vote for political parties.

To really force change, these intermittent followers need to be converted into relentless, unforgiving paladins. Even more, these fighters must remain hyper-focused on one single mission: restoring — to the extent that it is still possible — environmental equilibrium.

To achieve this, both Greta and all of us need to shift to the next gear.
Greta supporters need to follow her in her extreme focus: the environment, and nothing else. I was at a ‘Friday for change’ event in Berlin recently. Waiting for Greta to come to address us, I was reading the banners that people were showing. A lot of them aligned with the environmental narrative. But several others were telling other stories: LGBTQ, income equality, the fight against racism, intolerance, the rights of refugees.

Luca Silipo

I am an economist and author dedicated to finding applicable solutions to achieve social sustainability while preserving economic growth.