Greta Thunburg, Power, and Countercontrol

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

By Todd A. Ward, PhD, BCBA-D, LBA

bSci21Media, LLC

Greta Thunburg, the 16-year-old climate activist from Sweden, has attracted much attention as of late.  Including a passionate speech at the United Nations, which led to talk of a nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize.  The latter would place her amongst names such as Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela, and others.

But she is running into countercontrol, a term used by Skinner as early as 1953 in his book Science and Human Behavior.  In the book, Skinner talked at length on cultural practices, so-called “controlling agencies”, and the effects of groups and power, on society.

Said another way, as the effects of Greta’s behavior on society increases, efforts at countercontrol increase as well.  For example, President Donald Trump has been accused of cyberbullying the teenager.  Russian President Vladimir Putin recently said ““I’m sure that Greta is a kind and very sincere girl. But adults must do everything not to bring teenagers and children into some extreme situations.” adding fuel to the fire of condemnation by those in power.

Moreover, faculty at the University of Iowa were recently banned from mentioning Greta on social media as she attended a “climate strike” in Iowa City, attracting approx. 3,000 people.  Additionally, a local Iowa science teacher has been placed on leave after making a “sniper rifle” comment about Greta and the strike on social media.

However, Greta shows no signs of stopping.  On the contrary, her efforts seem to be gaining momentum and attracting more people to her cause around the globe.  With the majority of Americans thinking climate change will be worse for future generations, and an overwhelming majority of young people viewing climate change as a serious problem, the odds would seem to be stacked in her favor.  However, she is up against Skinner’s (1953) “controlling agencies” – notably governments which wield enormous power around the globe.

Who will win this epic battle? Let us know in the comments below, and be sure to subscribe to bSci21 via email to receive future articles directly to your inbox!


Todd A. Ward, PhD, BCBA-D, LBA is a science writer, social philosopher, behavioral systems analyst, and the President and Founder of bSci21Media, LLC, which aims to connect behavioral science to the world in an engaging, non-academic way.  Dr. Ward received his PhD in behavior analysis from the University of Nevada, Reno under Dr. Ramona Houmanfar.  He has served as a Guest Associate Editor of the Journal of Organizational Behavior Management, and as an Editorial Board member of Behavior and Social Issues.  His publications follow a theme of behavioral systems analysis, organizational performance, theory & philosophy, and language & cognition.  He has also provided ABA services to children and adults with various developmental disabilities in day centers, in-home, residential, and school settings, and previously served as Faculty Director of Behavior Analysis Online at the University of North Texas.  Dr. Ward can be reached at [email protected]

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  1. Very interesting perspective about the birth of a social phenomenon.

    I surely hope Greta will win, as this could lead to improvement in many other social issues.

  2. One self-identified ethical group agent/agency (Harley Schlanger of is promoting the counter control conceptualization that Greta is actually an enabler of the ceremonial authority of the large banking agencies — the banking dictatorship agenda. The macro-contingencies occasioning this are (1) the federal reserve is infusing $75 to $125 billion per 1-4 days cash the economy from 9/15-10/10 due to a liquidity crunch (in which the banks either don’t have the money or won’t make it available for short-term loans (STLs). (2)Repo markets are a place corporations and clients can go to borrow STLs but they’re not available right now. (3) Banks with plenty of cash on hand can money on this as interest rates are rising to 2.5% to 5% on short-term overnight loans. (4) Their reticence suggests trouble in the big banks and so they requested the Fed Reserves cash injection (1st time since 2008) injecting $500-$700 billion into these short-term overnight repo markets for banks to have available.(5) Panic is thereby prevented by the cash injection and minimizing of the crisis rhetoric. (6) The Fed is discussing a now round of Quantitative Easing in which instead of just buying treasuries from the banks, they’re going to buy corporate bonds, stocks, etc. They’ve run out of tools (quantitative easing, negative interest rates, etc.) to sustain the bubble. (7) Beneath the bubble which is showing signs of popping is a dramatic slow down of the real economy as conceptualized by triple curve theory in which speculative gains in financial markets are sustained by diverting monetary flows out of the real economy, into financial markets. This is sustained, increasingly, by looting the economic basis through large-scale attrition in basic economic infrastructure, and by driving down the net after-inflation prices paid for wages and production of operatives resulting in a triple curve: a hyperbolic curve upward of financial aggregates, a slower but also upward hyperbolic curve of monetary aggregates to sustain the bubble, and an accelerating downward curve in net per capita real output. When financial aggregates grow above monetary aggregates, there’s not enough money to back the financial aggregates. So monetary aggregates are increased but all that money goes into new forms of speculation rather than the real economy. This was how the 2008 collapse was conceptualized in 2007 and is being repeated now. (8) the post-2008 corrective never happened. Derivatives were restarted and accelerated. This was justified by modern monetary theory which holds you can create debt as much as you need to stimulate the economy but what gets stimulated is speculation which creates a flow of money into the highest risk because that’s where the highest return (but also greatest danger) is. But given the history of bailing out the speculators and cutting back more on the real economy, speculation continued unabated resulting in more debit today than in 2008. Without such speculator bail out guarantees, the system implodes which is where we’re heading now. (9) Now they’re moving toward a radical restructuring of the whole global economy. At the UN Climate Conference, Mark Carney, the governor of the Bank of England, presented a fallback option to create a new bubble that can last another year or two. The approach carries with it a new approach to economics. While everyone was paying attention to the histrionics of circus barker Greta Thornberg, Carney reported that since 2017, the major banks have been involved in an ongoing negotiation to establish a climate based financial system. 34 central bankers and bank supervisors had set up a “Coalition of the Willing” for what they called a network for greening the financial system (NGFS). In other words, the financial sector must be at the heat of tackling climate change. (1) There are 130 banks (totaling a $120 trillion asset base) that have assembled a coalition of accounting firms, rating agencies, pension funds — all the financial players – to make a compact for green financial investment including a task force for climate related financial disclosures. Every bank, in order to get money from the central bank, will have to pass a test that shows it is investing money only in carbon neutral or negative investments. (11) He said, “Firms that align their business models to the transition to a net zero carbon world will be rewarded handsomely. Those that fail to adopt these measures will cease to exist [be cut off from credit].” This is an oeprationalization of the “banker dictatorship” aspirations decried by Rissman and Kearney (2019) – The foregoing was based on a transcription paraphrasing the first 16 minutes of the following 52 minute YouTube interview: Much more is presented on the dishonest debate on climate science.

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