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Who's afraid of a little girl?

You all should be.

My almost 13-year-old is going through a special time in her life. One, I’m told, where she is figuring out her place in the world, where all previous naive beliefs about her saintly parents are being unceremoniously picked apart in her head, and where her not yet developed pre-frontal cortex makes no effort to weigh up other people’s feelings or any outlandish risks she might feel in that split second like taking.

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And, as the empty wine bottles building in the recycling bin in my house will attest to, there’s nothing that a teenage girl does better than to hit where it hurts.

Something in that adolescent brain knows exactly where to stick the knife and how to turn it to rip out your entrails in one swift disemboweling, and then kick you in the shin as you lay prone on the floor.

The worst of it is that she has apparently spent the previous 12 years of her life bearing witness to all my many faults and insecurities, and now she has the words, the hormones and the intent to make me painfully aware of them at every possible opportunity.

"it is not long before her or another Greta Thunberg catches sight of the seafood industry and starts picking through its dirty laundry."
For those of you who have or have had teenagers you will know exactly what I am talking about. Those of you who haven’t will also know. Because playing out on the world stage is a little girl who is doing an astounding and brilliant job of revealing our biggest faults and throwing them wholeheartedly into our faces.

The difference is that the faults she is pointing out threaten -- unlike my tendency to always eat the last of the ice-cream -- to bring down human civilization.

Greta Thunberg has spent the last couple of years building to this. She has spoken of being truly dismayed at the realization of the level of environmental destruction taking place and the apparently “shrug it off” way with which her wise elders have been dealing with it.

As with all teenagers, she started from a position of disbelief, but soon came to the cruel realization that her world was imperfect, that life was not fair and that the grownups around her were mere human beings, selfish and pre-occupied with the minutia of their daily lives.

But unlike most teenagers she refuses to resign herself to that fate. She has conjured every battling bone in her body and she is using her incredible eloquence, passion and dedication to fight the biggest challenge to human civilization: our destruction of the environment in which we need to live.

But as with anyone who refrains from the usual adult niceties of gentle persuasion and subtle hints, Thunberg has also built a large group of haters, of "realists" who claim she can have no clue about how the world works, about the complexities of climate change and its interplay with economies, livelihoods and politics. And while I am particularly prone to call out anyone I think who fails to understand complexity and the grittiness of life, what she is doing is different.

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Thunberg doesn’t have to understand the economic cost of banning plastic packaging or rationing meat production. She is a child. She is not a politician or a big industry exec and as such her only role is to question us with all the disarming honesty and insight that children have and deliver those questions with the visceral contempt that teenagers have a unique talent for.

As painful as it is, it is what we need to hear and it is exactly the time we need to hear it.

It makes me laugh to hear grown men and women talking her down as only someone with all their insecurities laid bare can. And I'm fairly sure this chatter is happening in seafood too. Who reading this column gets a small knot in their stomach when they catch a snatch of her speaking at the United Nations, or when reading one of her interviews? Because while for now she is focused on the global climate change issue, it is not long before her or another Greta Thunberg catches sight of the seafood industry and starts picking through its dirty laundry.

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Those who are already acting will welcome the public eye and government cajoling, but for those who are not... well, you might want to have some kind or retirement plan in place.

The point is, there is no hiding anymore. There is no curtain of pretense that you were uninformed, no veil with which to hide your shame. A child is standing on podiums around the world spitting out her disgust at our lack of action, in front of world leaders, TV cameras and industry giants, and people are listening.

It's time to move to action, and fast. A little girl has taken on the world and soon she or a similarly impassioned young person will come for seafood.

Any comments, complaints, retaliatory rants, please feel free to email me at rachel.mutter@intrafish.com.

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