At 16, Greta Thunberg is already a renowned environmental activist. She caused a stir when she held a demonstration alone in front of the Swedish Parliament. She held a sign in Swedish that said “school strike for the climate.” This particular protest inspired other teenagers to join her, thus starting the #FridaysforFuture demonstrations and eventually the School Climate Strike Movement. Hailed the “apocalypse guru” by far-right politicians, Greta Thunberg’s speeches at various world fora are powerful and have inspired people to follow her steps. But who is Greta Thunberg and how did she become an environmental activist at such a young age?
Who is Greta Thunberg?
Greta Thunberg is a sixteen-year-old student from Sweden. According to her parents, opera singer Malena Ernman and actor Svante Thunberg, Greta became depressed at age 8 when she first found out about climate change and found that very little was being done about it. Greta’s activism started at home. She challenged her parents to reduce their carbon footprint, which meant going vegan and giving up flying. Greta Thunberg’s parents did not like that she had to skip school for her protests but they support her nonetheless because it gave her purpose and made her happier. Greta herself has said that before she started protesting, she had little energy and had no friends.
Greta Thunberg proudly tells the world that she was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and selective mutism. Not only is Greta Thunberg an inspiration to do something about the climate crisis; she is also an inspiration that different abilities is not a hindrance. In one of her tweets, Thuberg explains “I’m not public about my diagnosis to “hide” behind it, but because I know many ignorant people still see it as an “illness,” or something negative. And believe me, my diagnosis has limited me before.”
Greta Thunberg’s environmental activism
Greta Thunberg’s ability and willingness to protest alone is admirable. Not many would be able to do it, yet Greta did it numerous times. Greta Thunberg takes inspiration from civil rights activist Rosa Parks, also an individual who made a significant difference in society. Rosa Parks inspired Greta Thunberg that even an individual can make a difference.
Thunberg was also inspired by the March for Our Lives movement that was organized by teen activists demanding gun control. The penultimate inspiration that nudged her to protest was Bo Thorén’s suggestion that school children could strike for climate change. Greta Thunberg heeded Thorén’s suggestion but was unable to convince other teens to join her, so she proceeded to protest on her own.
The first protest Greta Thunberg staged was on August 20, 2018, just a few weeks before the Swedish general election. She held a sign that said “school strike for the climate” and demanded that the Swedish government reduce the country’s carbon emissions. She also handed out leaflets that said “I am doing this because you adults are shitting on my future.” Her protests gained traction after freelance photographer posted photos and videos of her protests online.
After the Swedish general elections, Greta Thunberg skipped school to protest only on Fridays. Soon many other school children joined her, and the #FridaysForFuture movement started.
Although the far-right has hurled insults toward the 16-year-old, Greta Thunberg has received valuable support from French president Emmanuel Macron and US Representative Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez.
Greta Thunberg's Speeches
Greta Thunberg has been invited to speak at various venues, like the United Nations Climate Change Conference at the World Economic Forum, in Davos, in Brussels, at the EU Parliament in Strasbourg, and at the National Assembly in Paris.
Greta Thunberg’s speech in Davos went viral for her opening “Our house is on fire. I am here to say our house is on fire.” But Greta Thunberg’s Davos speech is just an example of how she speaks to politicians, to adults. She is straightforward in relaying to the adults the reality of the climate crisis and in laying out her demand of them. Greta Thunberg is consistent with her message: this climate crisis is an existential crisis, and the adults right now are responsible for it and are therefore the ones who should be doing something about it.
“Some people say that the climate crisis is something that we all have created. But that is just another convenient lie. Because if everyone is guilty, then no one is to blame. And someone is to blame. Some people—some companies and some decision-makers in particular—has known exactly what priceless values they are sacrificing to continue making unimaginable amounts of money.”
In her speeches, Greta Thunberg does not sugar-coat:
“I want to challenge those companies and those decision-makers into real and bold climate action. To set their economic goals aside and to safeguard the future living conditions for human kind. I don't believe for one second that you will rise to that challenge. But I want to ask you all the same. I ask you to prove me wrong. For the sake of your children, for the sake of your grandchildren. For the sake of life and this beautiful living planet.”
Teen who makes the right choices
Greta Thunberg is to attend the United Nations Climate Change Summit in New York on September 23, 2019. So, to avoid contributing to the carbon emission, Thunberg refused to fly to the US, and instead opted to travel by train then by sailing. Her zero-emissions trip started in August. She traveled with Malizia II which uses solar panels and underwater turbines to generate electricity for their journey. Thunberg will be accompanied by Boris Herrmann, a professional race-skipper, and Malizia team captain Pierre Casiraghi.
This journey, which took two weeks, is another protest for Greta Thunberg. According to the young activist:
“By doing this it also shows how impossible it is today to live sustainable. That, in order to travel with zero emissions, that we have to sail like this across the Atlantic Ocean.”
After the UN Climate Summit in New York, Greta Thunberg will proceed to travel to Chile for another set of climate talks with the United Nations in December.
The Greta Thunberg Effect
It is no surprise that climate change deniers are attacking Greta Thunberg on social media and elsewhere. However there is no denying that Thunberg’s message is true, and owing to this she has inspired thousands of young people from all over the world to protest. At present, the most clamorous climate change movement is those headed by young people. School children all over the world have started protesting with FridaysForFuture, demanding their respective governments to follow through with their pledge in the Paris Agreement.
The youth, it seems, is no longer hopeful—they are in a state of panic and anger. Most importantly, they are no longer sitting back, nor are they waiting for their time to “change the world.” Because there might not be a world to change in the next twenty years, they are now demanding the adults to start acting.
The Climate Crisis
Recently, a report warned that we have 12 years to cut down on carbon emissions and mitigate irreversible effects of climate change. Climate scientists corrected that this information is incorrect. The truth: we have no time. Everyone, individuals, governments, and corporations, must act now. Naturally, the impact of each individual will greatly vary, as will the impact of governments and corporations. Nevertheless, changes in the way we live and the way we conduct business is immensely needed.
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