Who is Greta Thunberg?

16-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg spoke at the United Nations Climate Action Summit on Monday, September 23. Snippets of her moving speech have circulated social media, inciting both positive and negative reactions from the public, politicians, and celebrities. The following quote from her speech at the UN captures the condemnation she has for those politicians remaining passive in the face of climate change:

People are suffering, people are dying, entire ecosystems are collapsing. We are in the beginning of a mass extinction, and all you can talk about is money and fairytales of eternal economic growth.”

Greta’s influence is undeniable, and she is a figure whose background and activism are worth talking about.

                                                                       Image Courtesy of Anders Hellberg

Greta Thunberg was born on January 3, 2003 in Stockholm, Sweden to Malena Ernman and Svante Thunberg. The first time Greta had heard about climate change was when she was eight years old. Since then, her concern for the earth’s well-being has led to her being well-known globally as an environmental activist. She first was recognized globally in 2018 when she led and began the school climate strikes from August 20, 2018 to the day of the 2018 Swedish general election, which was on September 9, 2018. During this time period, she refused to attend school, and instead, led a strike against the politicians passive towards climate change; she sat outside the Riksdag, Sweden’s national legislature, every day during school hours for these three weeks with a sign stating “Skolstrejk för klimatet”, translating to “School strike for climate”. After the general election, Greta began protesting every Friday, inspiring student strikes internationally. She continues to protest outside of the Riksdag every Friday, students occasionally joining her. She has since expanded her activism globally, attracting the attention of many influential politicians and speaking in multiple climate forums.

                                                                        Image Courtesy of Leonhard Lenz

Greta’s influence has been labeled as the “Greta Thunberg Effect,” and is raising awareness among her school-aged peers, as well as wealthy philanthropists from the United States, who have donated almost a half a million pounds to Extinction Rebellion and Climate Emergency Fund. She has also commented on the harmful carbon dioxide emissions from air travel, accounting for her decisions against flying to international conferences and instead sailing her way to her destinations. Because of this awareness, Swedish Railways has reported that train transportation use has increased 8% since 2018, the statistic reported in June 2019.

At only 16 years old, Greta has asserted herself as a political and social activist. She is an inspiration for all, young and old, and proves that young people have the power to speak out about society’s injustices to others and to the earth. An incredible and brave role model, Greta reminds us of our duty as human beings to protect the earth and life itself. 

                                                                          Image Courtesy of Marti Johnson