Greta Thunberg, a 16 years old girl from Sweden, has taken the world by storm. In one year, she has grown from an unknown and lonely schoolgirl protesting in front of the Swedish parliament house into a Nobel Peace Prize-nominated climate activist. She has reached vast numbers of followers on social media, over 7.6 million on Instagram, and 2.8 million on Twitter.
Thunberg’s incredible journey started on August 20th, 2018, with her one girl school strike and demonstration against climate change. After the hottest summer in Sweden for the past 262 years, with dangerous wildfires around the country, Thunberg decided not to attend school until the parliamentary elections on September 9th. The ninth-grader believed that despite the coming elections and progressive climate change, environmental and especially climate change matters where not adequately addressed before the elections.
During her demonstration, Thunberg was holding a handwritten sign of “Skolstrejk för klimatet”, meaning school strike for the climate. The slogan has been translated into numerous different languages. This initiative of school children striking on Fridays has grown into a global movement, contributing to and enlarging the already existed movement of School strike for climate. Subsequently, Thunberg created the slogan FridaysForFuture, which has attracted worldwide attention and inspired young people around the globe to take part in student’s strikes. Thunberg herself has also continued to protest whenever she can, whether alone or with thousands of others.
Picture by Tommi Boom
In a year, Thunberg has already spoken at multiple world-famous events, alongside top politicians, heads of state, entrepreneurs, and celebrities. Only eight months past the initial one girl climate strike, Thunberg had turned into a world know activist already. She had won multiple awards and been nominated to Time magazine’s list of the 100 most influential people in the world, alongside individuals such as Nancy Pelosi and Pope Francis. Among others, she has met the French president, Emmanuel Macron, and has been endorsed by the German chancellor, Angela Merkel.
Anyhow, given her personal circumstances, Thunberg’s success may be seen as unexpectable and hugely respectable, maybe even more for her parents. Four years ago, Thunberg was diagnosed with Asperger’s and selective mutism. She has been bullied at school, and none of her friends wanted to take part in her first demonstration back in August 2018. Thunberg has also suffered from depression, which was not caused but contributed by the environmental problems the world is currently facing. However, instead of keeping her frustration inside, she eventually managed to turn the bad and damaging thoughts into action and creating something good and meaningful by her work against climate change.
Throughout her activism, Thunberg has been continuously referring to scientific knowledge and trying to wake up politicians and ordinary people into taking action to prevent climate change. She has actively addressed the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report published in 2018, which gave the world 12 years before it is unstoppable to avoid a climate change catastrophe. Along the way, Thunberg has multiple times emphasized that the topics of her passion are not her opinions, but rather scientific facts.
Earlier this year, Thunberg spoke at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos alongside the most influential world leaders and businesspeople. The famous line “our house is on fire” was a part of her WEF speech. Thunberg urged the participants to do more to prevent climate change instead of repeating empty words about financial success. She slashed the policymakers in her speech by telling, “I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act”.
Besides, Thunberg was also invited to the United Nations (UN) Climate Actions summit in New York in September. Since Thunberg has given up flying over her devotion to climate change, she traveled to the United States, crossing the Atlantic Ocean by a carbon-free yacht. The trip created significant media attention over the journey but also the whole UN meeting. Her emotional and oppressive speech given at the conference was shared by many over the social media.
“You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words. … We are in the beginning of a mass extinction, and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you!”
The UN speech was widely recognized and received attention all over the world. Many celebrities shared the speech over social media and addressed their support towards Thunberg. Anyhow, despite Thunberg’s well-intentioned efforts, several leaders around the globe have criticized her opinions and credibility, including Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump. President Trump tweeted after Thunberg’s speech at the UN summit that “She seems like a very happy young girl looking forward to a bright and wonderful future. So nice to see!”. Anyhow, Thunberg has withstood from the critics and taken proudly over the comments, which, for example, led her to change her Twitter bio over the Trump tweet.
Whether or not people like Thunberg, she has made her voice heard and activated millions of people around the globe. Her initiative has inspired especially young people to speak up, as their voice is generally lacking in the political arena. Thunberg has touched people and constantly keeps pushing to make a change in the world. Regardless of her not ending up winning the Nobel Peace Prize this year, Thunberg has proven herself fearless. The climate activist is only 16 years old, and therefore, we should keep a close eye on this young woman, who is, without a doubt, capable of achieving great things.