The exploitation of the child prophets is also opportunistic. The whole point of the child icons is that they are screens on which adults can project their agendas while hiding behind the purity of children who most people will be loath to criticize. In effect, these children are turned into human shields for the adult advocates. Loathsome is not too strong a word for grownups who use children in such a manner.

And the people who gravitate to the child prophets attribute to them the wisdom and moral clarity that adults lack. But this image of the deeply-wise teenager seldom survives contact with an actual adolescent. Which, of course, isn’t their fault. If adolescents were, as a class, wise and prudent, we’d let them make all sorts of important decisions for themselves. But we don’t, because as both a matter of nature and nurture—there’s brain chemistry going on in adolescent development, in addition to the maturity gained through life experience—they have not had the chance to develop all of the pathways to adult rationality.

Greta Thunberg is, in many ways an exceptional young lady. And good for her. But turning this girl into an oracle is both unserious and deeply cynical. And kind of awful.