By Todd A. Ward, PhD, BCBA-D, LBA
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 firstname.lastname@example.org