#WCW: Greta Thunberg

When Greta Thunberg won an essay competition about the climate crisis for a Swedish newspaper, she never imagined she would become the face of environmental activism. In May of 2018, when Thunberg was only 15 years old, she began skipping school to protest in front of the Swedish parliament building, holding a sign that read “School Strike for Climate.” Her campaigning for environmental legislation went viral, and she encouraged fellow students around the world to join her using the hashtag Fridays For Future.

According to BBC News, over 20,000 students across the world followed in Thunberg’s footsteps after the image of her sitting outside of the Swedish parliament building spread on the internet. She then took her activism further by traveling to different European countries by train to join climate strikes. Thunberg’s advocacy is centered around getting governments and large-scale businesses around the world to cut carbon emissions, and according to BBC News, she believes governments and previous generations have failed younger people by placing the burden of saving the planet on them.

In September 2019, Thunberg travelled for two weeks by yacht to New York to speak at the United Nations’ Climate Action Summit. She chose to travel by a zero-emissions yacht to do her part in reducing pollution, and when she arrived, she delivered a spine-chilling speech that went viral.

“This is all wrong,” Thunberg began her speech powerfully, demanding that everyone in the room listen to what she had to say. “I shouldn't be up here. I should be back in school on the other side of the ocean. Yet you all come to us young people for hope. How dare you.”

She continued her speech by shamelessly calling out the world politicians and the institutions that have contributed to the climate crisis.

“You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words,” she said in front of world leaders. “And yet I'm one of the lucky ones. 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. How dare you.”

Later that year, Thunberg was named TIME Magazine’s Person of the Year, following her nomination for a Nobel Peace Prize. According to TIME, Thunberg has “succeeded in creating a global attitudinal shift, transforming millions of vague, middle-of-the-night anxieties into a worldwide movement calling for urgent change,” which is why she was given the title Person of the Year. 

Additionally, Thunberg revealed to the world that she has Asperger’s syndrome, a condition on the autism spectrum that is closely associated with having strong language skills and intellectual ability, according to Autism Speaks. While the public had a lot to say about Thunberg’s diagnosis, the teenage activist told the world she is not ashamed of the person she is. In August 2019, she tweeted: “When haters go after your looks and differences, it means they have nowhere left to go. And then you know you’re winning! I have Aspergers and that means I’m sometimes a bit different from the norm. And - given the right circumstances- being different is a superpower. #aspiepower.” Thunberg even told TIME Magazine that she is “grateful for her diagnosis” because without Asperger’s, she said she would not be able to sit for hours and learn about the things that interest her. She believes her Asperger’s is the reason she is so passionate about environmental activism, and without it, she may not have recognized the urgency in the problem of climate change.

Thunberg’s efforts in response to the climate crisis are far from over. Today, Thunberg is 18 years old, and according to The Hill, she will testify in front of Congress at a special hearing for climate change actions on Earth Day.  According to Politico, the hearing is entitled "The Role of Fossil Fuel Subsidies in Preventing Action on the Climate Crisis.”

Greta Thunberg’s shameless activism and perseverance proves that any ordinary person can make a change; therefore, we should all stand up for what we believe in. She hasn’t given up on environmental change, and you shouldn’t either.

 

"I want you to act as if the house is on fire, because it is."

– Greta Thunberg, January 2019 at the World Economic Forum.