A statue of 18-year-old Swedish global warming activist Greta Thunberg, installed at the University of Winchester in the UK, has sparked outrage among students. They called it a “vanity project” because of the amount spent on the tribute, £ 24,000 (around R $ 190,000)
The environmental activist’s life-size bronze artwork has been described by the university as “inspiring” to the world and “no money has been diverted” from supporting students or staff for the project.
The student union disagreed and said the funds could have been better spent. Winchester UCU President Megan Ball described Thunberg as “a fantastic role model for everyone, someone who speaks loudly about important global issues,” but said the union could not support the sculpture.
“It’s a year away at Covid, a lot of students haven’t really had access to campus, a lot of them are trying to study online and are in desperate need of support,” Megan said.
The president of Winchester UCU has asked the university to match the cost of the statue by committing the amount in additional funding for student support services on campus. “We ask that you publicly address the critical issues that students highlight and provide a transparent analysis of additional and existing financial support.”
University Vice Chancellor Professor Joy Carter said no money had been diverted from student or staff support to fund the West Downs Project. The university spent £ 5.2million this year on student support.
In an email, sent to the students, the university which hopes that the statue will become a symbol of its “commitment in the fight against climatic and ecological emergencies”.
“Greta is a young woman who, despite the difficulties in her life, has become a leading environmental activist in the world. As a University for Sustainability and Social Justice, we are proud to honor this inspiring woman with this way, ”added Professor Carter.
The university added that many see her as a controversial figure, but that she accepts that we accept critical debates and conversations. “We hope your statue will help inspire our community, reminding us that no matter what life throws at us, we can always change the world for the better. It’s a message we want all of our students and all young people hear. “
The young Swedish activist Greta, was the winner in 2020 of the first edition of the Gulbenkian Prize for Humanity, an initiative which grants 1 million euros (approximately R $ 6.17 million) to innovative projects against climate change .
The amount has been applied by the Thunberg Foundation, created by the teenager, in several projects around the world. The first donation, of 100 thousand euros (617 thousand R $), went to the SOS Amazônia campaign, by Fridays for Future Brazil, which fights against Covid-19 in the region.
One of the main voices against climate change in recent years, Greta rose to fame after launching a student strike in defense of the environment on Friday. The initiative, which started in Stockholm, has spread to hundreds of cities around the world. In 2019, the young woman was voted person of the year by Time magazine.