Youth climate activists condemn DePaul professor’s open letter to Greta Thunberg as ‘hateful’

DePaul philosophy professor Jason Hill’s letter, published Monday on conservative Frontpage Mag’s website, refers to Thunberg’s followers as “ecofascist supporters,” criticizing “you and your smug generation.”

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Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old climate activist from Sweden, sits on a catamaran docked in Hampton, Va., on Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2019. Thunberg will leave North America and begin her return trip across the Atlantic on Wednesday aboard a 48-foot catamaran sailboat whose passengers include an 11-month-old baby. The boat leaves little to no carbon footprint, boasting solar panels and a hydro-generators for power.

Ben Finley/AP Photo

Illinois youth climate activists have condemned a DePaul University professor’s “Open Letter to Greta Thunberg,” calling it a “hateful” attack on the teen activist’s work.

Philosophy Professor Jason Hill’s letter, published Monday on conservative Frontpage Mag’s website, refers to Thunberg, 16, as a “credentialed adult” before taking aim at her demands for urgent action against climate change. He refers to Thunberg’s followers as “ecofascist supporters,” criticizing “you and your smug generation.”

“Your generation is unable to work up to forty hours per week without being chronically depressed and anxious. Its members cannot even decide if they want to be a boy or a girl, or both, or neither, or a ‘they,’” Hill writes, referencing an anonymous blog post. “They cannot eat meat without crying. I might add that your generation needs ‘trigger warnings’ and ‘safe spaces’ as pre-conditions for learning in school.”

Hill’s letter does not deny the scientific evidence of climate change but argues a “moral case for fossil fuel” and claims that Thunberg’s demands would have people “living in grass huts, drinking animal feces infested water, and shrinking in fear from polar bears instead of killing them for food when they attack us.”

In an emailed statement, DePaul spokeswoman Carol Hughes said that Hill’s “words are his own and do not reflect the views of this university,” referring to DePaul’s Guiding Principles on Speech and Expression, which commit to creating spaces for ideas to be exchanged “civilly and respectfully.”

“DePaul believes faculty should be allowed to express their position on a topic, even if it can be seen as provocative, while also aspiring to be a community marked by mutual respect,” Hughes’ statement continued. “Our professors and students share academic freedom, guaranteed to them by their membership in the university community.”

Isabella Johnson, the 17-year-old Illinois state lead for the U.S. Youth Climate Strike group, said in an emailed statement that Hill’s letter sparked “an immense feeling of pride in my generation.” She said his comments regarding LGBTQ people and mental illness were “disgusting” and invited him to the group’s next Climate Strike on Dec. 6 in Chicago.

“How dare you invalidate every feeling that my generation is experiencing. Your words are inspired by hate, our words are inspired by love. How could you be so hateful towards teenagers simply begging for a safe planet?” Johnson said. “I am open to hearing your perspective, and I challenge you to be open to my perspective too.”

Illinois Youth Climate Strike members Ella Barry, 16, and Lina Avalos, 17, co-signed Hill’s response.

Thunberg announced Tuesday that she will sail back to Sweden on Wednesday after touring North America since the summer to organize youth against climate change.

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