Fortunately, she was at soccer camp for a few days, her mother says. So Rosalinde didn’t get the hateful reactions that came out. It had been discussed with her. But, the girl had said: you shouldn’t take that seriously.
The 14-year-old Rosalinde Leijdekker wrote an emotional letter to Prime Minister Rutte, last Thursday in NRC published. She called on the prime minister to take the climate problem seriously, for her and future generations.
That became national news. the NOS picked it up, the girl came on the radio. Other sections were on the line: Heart of the Netherlands, On 1. The Party for the Animals asked parliamentary questions. Whether the Prime Minister would like to answer ‘properly’, within two weeks, with a copy to the House.
And then came the scorn. This girl with her precocious letter was of course “manipulated” by her father, founder of a sustainable crowdfunding platform. He had that letter whispered or written, with his daughter as a wannabe– Greta Thunberg. Kids do well as signboards, don’t they?
They are still a little upset about it, Rosalinde’s mother says. After GeenStijl dug up his LinkedIn account, her father also received miserable hate mail, the kind you don’t want to quote. What possesses those people? Although it has also yielded beautiful things, such as an invitation for his daughter to give a TedX speech.
Maybe he was just unlucky in the daily cycle of online hate: there had just been a fuss about the father of Frederique, who told about the abuse of his child who would not say whether she was a boy or a girl.
But Rosalinde came up with that letter, a writing talent, really herself, her mother exclaims. The child read on her NOS app about the latest IPCC report and was excited about it: “I am going to write a letter to Rutte.” Not surprising for this daughter, says mother. “When we buy cosmetics, she immediately checks on an app whether it contains micro-plastics.” She is also interested in vegetarianism, Uyghurs, women in Afghanistan and other charities.
In the letter Rosalinde wrote “in ten minutes,” her mother changed a spelling error and one wording, that’s all. The handwritten letter went to Rutte (by post and e-mail) and to the newspaper, with a version typed out by her father. The latter – which became the letter at Opinion – is streamlined here and there, which can give a more ‘adult’ impression. But not substantively changed. The handwritten version, which I was given to read, is undeniably a 14-year-old cry from the heart.
Of course, it is important to be careful with publicity from and about minors. Children quickly become cannon fodder for adults’ world problems – or alibis for their bad conscience. See Greta Thunberg who joined the UN the world lectured about the climate crisis. If it Pakistani girl Malala Yousafzai, nearly killed by the Taliban, which became a symbol of the struggle for girls and women’s education.
On the other hand, why wouldn’t a 14-year-old find something, with full conviction? NRC’s Style Book has a lemma about children. That stipulates that they cannot be interviewed without the knowledge of parents or other adults – but not that they cannot say or find anything.
Does that also apply to letters?
NRC previously printed two letters from havo-4 students, an ‘assignment from the Dutch teacher’, noted the chief Opinion in the inbox of the editors. They stood out in the daily load of mail, but were chosen “because they were good substantive letters,” according to the chief. He concluded: “Which we warmly welcome this new generation of letter writers.”
Understandable, because the cliché is that letter writers are retired armchair generals who, after a sherry-sprinkled afternoon with ‘friends’ in the garden, put their annoyance on paper. In reality, it is a varied group – but still predominantly male.
Should the editors of Opinion have mentioned with that letter that the girl’s father works in the sustainability sector, as a reader on the basis of GeenStijl believes (her mother is a mathematics teacher, by the way)? Well, with adult letter writers it is not standard from which nest they come, so why?
The suggestion is of course: she probably did not write or devise that letter herself. But she did, although the editors could indeed have checked with the sender before publication to make sure. Not so much out of suspicion, but simply because it is special that a 14-year-old writes such a letter. That also arouses journalistic interest.
Incidentally, cheating does sometimes occur, but remains rare as far as I can judge. Earlier I described here that a letter writer, a former professor of ethics who masqueraded as a man who had had pleasant sexual experiences with an older man at a young age, turned out to be a convicted paedosexual himself.
By the way, a phone call can also be desired afterwards, for aftercare – especially if you know that a letter can work on the fingers of hateful keyboard tigers. These are a problem, also on nrc.nl – one of the reasons that the possibility to respond to documents has recently been discontinued.
But readers should not doubt the authenticity of this climate change letter. What Rosalinde writes is her own conviction.
Now that of Mark (54).
A version of this article also appeared in NRC Handelsblad of 21 August 2021
A version of this article also appeared in NRC in the morning of August 21, 2021