Let’s Talk about Greta Thunberg

Greta Ernman Thunberg is a 16-year old Swedish political activist seeking action against climate change. She first made headlines in August 20th last year, when she skipped school to protest outside of the parliament house in Sweden. She was holding a sign which read ‘skolstrejk för klimatet’ (school strike for climate). Since her initiative, students across Europe have skipped school in order to protest against climate change. Thunberg has become a symbol for a a new climate change movement, asking students across the world: “ Why should we go to school to study if there is no future?”

Photo credit: Greta Thunberg (Twitter)

Since her protest last August, she has spoken at TEDxStockholm, addressed the United Nations Climate Change Conference, spoken at the World Economic Forum, and taken part in several events promoting action against climate change. The address to the World Economic Forum was especially memorable: ‘Adults keep saying: “We owe it to the young people to give them hope.” But I don’t want your hope. 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. I want you to act as you would in a crisis. I want you to act as if our house is on fire. Because it is.’

Thunberg has an obsessive-compulsive disorder and Asperger’s syndrome, exaggerating black-and-white world view that is very common among adolescents. She has also been through some tough times. In a TV-interview she revealed that she has struggled with depression, which caused her to drop out of school, quit eating and stop talking. She later found new purpose in life when she decided to become an activist against climate change. Her protest and action against the failure of world leaders and institutions regarding climate change has inspired the many teenagers who follow her lead. She states that "no one is too small to make a change."

At the beginning of this year, Thunberg was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. The founder of the Nobel Prize institution explained that the Peace Prize should be awarded to a “person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations and the abolition or reduction of standing armies and the formation and spreading of peace congresses”. Now, Thunberg doesn’t necessarily meet this standard. It seems that the committee wants to signal their support for youth activism as well as climate issues, instead of rewarding her accomplishments specifically. This has created controvercy: some celebrate climate change strikers as the future of activism, others find it upsetting that so many adults allow children to skip school for such a “mundane” cause.