Greta shows us why humans have conquered the earth

Patrick Westöö
5 min readJan 9, 2021

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Last night I was watching the Greta Thunberg documentary and something became obvious to me. She is a great example of why humans have come to dominate this earth. Let me walk you through what I mean.

The night before I also re read the classic HC Anderson tale of the emperor without clothes. This classic story is of an emperor who is being fooled by two “tailors” into wearing nothing in the belief that only the smart ones can see the real clothes. In the end it takes a small child to point out that the emperor is indeed without clothes.

This is a great story but it's also based on the way our brain works and the way humans live. Kids' brains are different from adult brains, they are focused on understanding the world, without judgement. This is crucial to their, and our, survival as they have to learn what is dangerous and what is safe. As each experience is often new to them they have to pay attention. It's why a kid can spend a day in the garden taking in all the details that exist but that your adult brain filters most of it away, it’s seen it before, while you are busy thinking about work.

One analogy of the brain often used is of a hill covered in snow. As a kid the hill is mostly free from sled paths but as they grow older more and more paths are taken from the top to the bottom. As we are old no new paths are being created. The bottom parts of the hill represent different parts of our brain. Our brain becomes fixed and we have a hard time to take in new concepts and ideas.

Humans like all other animals need to survive and adapting to changes is the most important skill. As Darwin wrote, survival of the fittest is not survival of the fastest or strongest but the one most adaptable to change. Most animals can only change through mutations of their genes, something that takes tens of thousands of years to happen. Humans on the other hand can learn and in a few generations dramatically change the way we live.

Despite the fact that we can change super fast compared to a hippo it's still a process that takes generations. Old people are hard to convince as they get stuck in their stories, and the ways things should be. If I discuss Greta with an older person they often revert back to stories such as “kids should go to school” vs facts…

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