How far would you go to make your next trip carbon neutral?
Probably not as far as Greta Thunberg, the Joan of Arc of climate crisis, who will soon be crossing the Atlantic from Britain to North America in an 18m solar powered racing yacht.
September, when she is travelling, is hurricane season, and Greta has never sailed before, but she needs to be in New York for the UN climate summit. Greta didn’t want to fly, for obvious reasons, or take a cruise ship.
She says that finding an appropriate vessel to take her across the ocean — one that would not leave a trail of emissions — had been “impossible”, until she was offered a lift by the captain of a yacht. Not the kind of yacht we associate with paunchy oligarchs in Monaco, those bloated floating hotels covered in waxed celebrities quaffing champers, waited on by staff with gold braid; no, Greta’s chosen boat, the Malizia II, doesn’t even have a loo.
It has a bucket, says its skipper Boris Herrmann. He told the BBC that it doesn’t have hot water either, or showers, or a fridge, or any kind of entertainment systems to keep a teenager engaged for two weeks, or longer, if the weather is bad and they have to take the scenic route.
All the boat’s solar energy goes into keeping the boat moving in the right direction — there’s nothing left over for fripperies like hot showers or flushing loos or cold drinks or watching Love Island online from a comfy sofa. If Greta is seasick, there’s always that bucket.
Greta is 16, and for so many of us, represents a glimmer of hope for the future of humankind. We all need to be more Greta; her clear-eyed fearlessness and relentless articulation of climate reality in the face of adult deniers makes her a heroine of our times. She’s a beacon.
My son, who is also 16, thinks she’s a muppet. He thinks school climate striking is a waste of time, other than as an excuse to bunk off school and miss double science; he thinks that Extinction Rebellion are idiots who disrupt people going about their daily life by causing traffic jams; and that vegans are mentally ill and don’t know what they’re missing from the fried chicken shop.
It’s fair to say that unlike Greta, my son is not woke. That he is very much rebelling against the Extinction Rebellion flyers stuck to our fridge, and the vegan dinners inside it. He thinks not flying is a ridiculous idea, and remains impervious to the plight of polar bears. They’d eat you if they met you, he says, tearing into another chunk of fried chicken.
I tell him about Greta and her forthcoming trip to New York in the boat with no loo. He looks at me sideways, eyes narrowed — because his sister, himself and I are hoping to visit the Big Apple together, later in the year. In a plane. You massive hypocrite, he says. He’s right, of course.