Opinion

Museum Honors Greta Thunberg’s Activism by … Naming a Beetle After Her?

To properly honor the teenage climate activist, institutions should instead advocate for policy change, prioritize their ecological footprint, and hold large corporations accountable.

Greta Thunberg at the European Parliament in April 2019 (via European Parliament’s Flickrstream)

The cutting-edge trend in performative wokeness at the moment is naming things after Greta Thunberg, it seems. The teenage climate activist grabbed headlines when she engaged in a school strike outside Swedish Parliament in August 2018, and has gone on to write op-eds, advocate for immediate action on the part of international governments, and traveled via sailboat across the Atlantic to passionately shame the United Nations Climate Action Summit into salvaging something from the flaming wreck of our collective future.

Naturally, the straight-shooter charisma of the 16-year-old activist has triggered a cult of personality to form around her image — even as her message remains unambiguously focused on policy change and anti-capitalist sentiment. As reported recently, Thunberg’s handwriting has been adapted as a new font by a startup called Uno; DJ Fatboy Slim has sampled Thunberg’s no-nonsense oratory for a remix of “Right Here, Right Now”; and last Friday, perhaps the greatest honor of all: Britain’s Natural History Museum named a beetle after her.

As reported by AFP, the beetle in question is less than 1mm long, blind, flightless, and was discovered in Nairobi in the 1960s. Much like climate change, which was also brought to public awareness in the 1960s, everyone apparently felt comfortable ignoring this beetle until Greta Thunberg came along, so in this sense, the newly-christened Nelloptodes gretae finds itself aptly named.

“The name of this beetle is particularly poignant,” said Max Barclay, a senior curator at the museum, who spearheaded the effort to name the Greta-beetle. “It is likely that undiscovered species are being lost all the time, before scientists have even named them, because of biodiversity loss.”

Indeed, it is a terrifying moment for us denizens of planet Earth, where we are being forced every day to jettison the comfort of denial in favor of difficult decisions about how to live more sustainably as a global society. Probably a lot of that involves people in developed nations built on the wealth of colonial empires rescinding some of their luxuries and control over the axis of geopolitics, and that’s what makes efforts by the tractor beam of capitalism to produce Greta Thunberg merch especially goddamn gross. Does it hurt to name a beetle after her? No. Does it help? Certainly not. For her ability to face difficult facts and unplug herself from the matrix of signaled complacency, Greta Thunberg deserves infinite respect, but let’s stan for her in a way that does her justice: by advocating for policy changes that prioritize a reduction of carbon dioxide production, and hold big corporations accountable for the impact of their profiteering on the health of the planet.

Also, if we must name something after Greta Thunberg, can it not be a tiny, ineffectual, blind, flightless beetle? Any scientists out there not already occupied trying to preserve our dwindling ice caps needs to get busy hunting down an undiscovered species of bright-eyed, fire-breathing, hard-biting beetle, one that can take to the air like an angel of justice, with an army of other angry-ass beetles clamoring for change right behind her. Also, if it has two long braids for some reason, that would be very on-brand. How about it, science?

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