Greta Thunberg is a Swedish teenage girl who has become the face of climate change activism. From speaking at the United Nations summits and meeting with world leaders like Obama to sailing across the Atlantic in a zero-emissions boat, Greta is, in fact, leading the largest youth climate strike in history.
Greta Earnman Thunberg was born in the Swedish capital, Stockholm on January 3, 2003, which makes her 16 years old (as in 2019).
In 2011, the eight years old Greta heard about something called ‘climate change’ for the first time and when she came to know that it was something created by humans, it made her feel strange, and she started pondering over the same; while sharing her thoughts, which came to her during that time, she says,
If we were capable of saving the environment, then why weren’t we hearing about it everywhere? As soon as you turned on the television, why wasn’t the climate crisis the first thing you heard about? Headlines, radio programmes, newspapers, you would never hear about anything else, as if there was a world war going on. Yet our leaders never talked about it. If burning fossil fuels threatened our very existence, then how could we continue to burn them? Why were there no restrictions? Why wasn’t it illegal to do this? Why wasn’t anyone talking about the dangerous climate change we have already locked in? And what about the fact that up to 200 species are going extinct every single day?
Greta became so much involved in thinking over climate change and its effects on the planet that it made her depressed, she became lethargic and stopped talking and eating as well; eventually, three years later in 2014, she was diagnosed with Asperger’s, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).
However, Greta doesn’t consider her illness as her weakness and instead, she calls it her ‘superpower.’ While talking about her illness in an interview, she said,
Being different is a gift, had I not have Asperger’s, I wouldn’t have become such a passionate climate activist.
The first thing that Greta did in her climate change activism was to turn vegan followed by convincing her parents to lower the family’s carbon footprint by turning vegan and giving up flying; consequently, her mother had to say goodbye to her international career as an opera singer. The positive response from her family encouraged Greta to move ahead in her mission to save the environment and instilled in her the belief that she could make a difference.
Family & Ethnicity
Greta Thunberg has the Swedish ethnicity, and both her parents are artists, her father, Svante Thunberg is a Swedish actor; while her mother, Malena Ernman is a popular opera singer. Her paternal grandfather, Olof Thunberg is also a Swedish actor and director. Her paternal grandmother’s name is Mona Andersson. Greta has a younger sister named Beata Thunberg who is also diagnosed with Asperger’s.
The genesis of her activism career was in May 2018, when she won a climate change essay competition for the Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladet. On August 20, 2018, while studying in the ninth grade, she decided to quit her school and launch a school strike for climate change. On her Instagram, she announced that she would not attend school until the 2018 Sweden general election on September 9, 2018. She started her protest by sitting outside the Riksdag, the Swedish Parliament, every day during school hours with the sign “Skolstrejk för klimatet” (school strike for the climate) and in the process, she would also hand out leaflets to the passersby that declared:
I am doing this because you adults are shitting on my future.”
After the 2018 Swedish general elections, she restricted her protest only on Fridays, gaining worldwide attention. In the beginning, Greta was a lone protestor, but later, she was joined by many school students across the globe who got inspired by her efforts, and they started school strikes in their respective countries.
Greta’s first participation in climate change activism outside Sweden was in October 2018, when Greta, along with her family, drove in an electric car to London, where she addressed the ‘Declaration of Rebellion’ organized by Extinction Rebellion opposite the Houses of Parliament.
On November 24, 2018, she was invited to spoke at TEDxStockholm.
On December 4, 2018, she spoke at the United Nations climate change conference (COP24) in Katowice, Poland. Before the start of the conference, she told the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres-
This is the biggest crisis humanity has ever faced.”
On January 23, 2019, she set an example by arriving in Davos after a 32-hour train journey to address at the World Economic Forum; where most of the delegates had arrived in their private jet planes.
In March 2019, she led more than 1 million students around the world to walk out of their Friday classes to protest inaction on climate change.
On August 28, 2019, Greta arrived in New York to attend the UN Climate Action Summit; after sailing for 15 days across the Atlantic in a 60 ft racing yacht having zero-emission.
On September 23, 2019, she opened the United Nations Climate Action Summit in the United Nations (UN) headquarter, where, in her speech, she strongly condemned the world leaders for failing to take the required measures to combat climate change, she said-
How dare you!
- Many magazines have questioned Thunberg’s phenomenal rise as a climate activist. A Swiss magazine, Die Weltwoche, questioned why Thunberg was getting so much support when another teen activist, Izabella Nilsson Jarvandi, who campaigns against migration and “globalism,” barely gets noticed.
- Greta’s mother was also accused of leveraging Greta’s name for her book’s publicity. The PR team of Greta’s mother launched the book with a picture of Greta on the school strike on Instagram and published an article about her on Facebook.
- After working for an NGO named We Don’t Have Time Foundation (WDHT) as an unpaid youth advisor, she quit her volunteer advisor role with WDHT, when she found that they were using her name and image without her knowledge or permission to raise millions. She said- “I’m not part of any organization, I’m absolutely independent and do what I do completely for free.”
- She was honored with the Fryshuset scholarship of the Young Role Model of the Year in November 2018.
- Time Magazine named Greta Thunberg one of the world’s 25 most influential teenagers of 2018.
- In March 2019, she was proclaimed the most important woman of the year in Sweden; on the occasion of International Women’s Day.
- Three Norwegian lawmakers nominated Greta Thunberg for the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize in March 2019.
- On March 31, 2019, she received the German Goldene Kamera Special Climate Protection award.
- In April 2019, Amnesty International honored her with their most prestigious award, the Ambassador of Conscience Award.
- On July 12, 2019, she received the Geddes Environment Medal by the Royal Scottish Geographical Society.
- On September 25, 2019, she was named as one of four winners of the 2019 Right Livelihood Award, known as Sweden’s alternative Nobel Prize.
- Her father, Svante Thunberg is the descendant of Svante Arrhenius, the Nobel Prize-winning scientist, who first calculated the greenhouse effect caused by carbon dioxide emissions in 1896, who is also known as the “father of climate change science.” She was also named after him.
- She is a staunch crusader of a vegan lifestyle and grows her own vegetables in her family’s farmland on the outskirts of Stockholm.
- Initially, her parents and teachers were aloof from her decision to quit school for the climate strike and asked her to go back to school.
- The inspiration behind her climate school strike is the teen activists at Parkland school in Florida, who organized the “March For Our Lives.”
- She considers the famous primatologist, Jane Goodall, as her hero.
- While in her hometown, she loves to play with her pet dogs.
- In May 2019, Time Magazine featured her on its cover.
- A stunning street art mural has been made on the side of the 15-meter-high Tobacco Factory building in the city of Bristol, southwest England by the famous artist, Jody Thomas.
- The greatest honor that she has received is a statement made by the Secretary-General of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), Mohammed Barkindo in July 2019. He declared Thunberg and her climate activism as the “greatest threat” to the fossil fuel industry.
- In July 2019, she gave a long voice over to the new track of the popular English band “The 1975.”
- On September 16, 2019, after meeting Greta Thunberg in Washington D.C., the former US President, Barack Obama said-
You and me, we’re a team.”
- Greta Thunberg’s climate activism is often termed as the “Greta Thunberg Effect.”