The Young Climate Change Advocate Who Is Being Talked About Around The World

Most teenagers skip school so they can go to a park or a mall and hang out with their friends. Greta Thunberg started skipping school so that she could strike outside the Swedish parliament. The adolescent climate change advocate began her efforts by holding up a sign that says in Swedish, “School strike for climate.” After catching the attention of others, Greta became an international phenomenon and has even won awards for her speeches and activism. She travels on a zero-carbon yacht, talking to government officials all over the globe. Read on to discover the amazing strides this young girl has taken to change the world.

Not A Typical Child

Greta sits in a crowd of ralliers in DC
Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post via Getty Images
Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Greta was born to two performers, singer Malena Ernman and actor and arts manager Svante Thunberg, in Stockholm, Sweden. At the age of eleven, she was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and selective mutism.

Greta told The Guardian that she sees her mental ailments as her “superpower.” She’s known for being blunt and to the point, something that could be related to her unique brain. Unlike many other teens, Greta seems far more concerned with her carbon footprint than what others think of her.

Motivated By March For Our Lives

Women pose with Greta for a photo while the rally
Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images
Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images

Greta told Amy Goodman from Democracy Now! that her motivation came from the March For Our Lives event after the Parkland, Florida, school shooting in 2018. The demonstration took place in Washington D.C. on behalf of school shootings across the country.

Teen activists abandoned their classrooms to strike in support of better gun control. Greta liked the idea and decided to implement it into her own fight against climate change. She spent the first three weeks of her freshman year in high school protesting outside Riksdag (Sweden’s national legislature) during school hours.

One Hot Summer

Greta speaks on an outside stage at a rally in New York
Ron Adar/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images
Ron Adar/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

At the time that Greta began her striking career, Sweden was experiencing its hottest summer in almost 300 years! Greta continued her demonstration every day until the 2018 Swedish general election on September 9th.

Greta’s confidence stemmed from the support of her parents, who together with Greta went vegan and gave up air travel. Before long, Greta had gained support from many others who had seen her on social media. She continued her strikes every Friday, calling the effort “Fridays for Future.”

She Inspired Other Students To Join In

Greta speaks into a microphone onstage
Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images
Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images

Greta’s Friday strikes garnered even more attention when the social media company We Don’t Have Time (WDHT) began posting about her. Students around the world began partaking in Friday strikes modeled after Greta’s actions.

By December of 2018, just months after she began demonstrating, more than 20,000 students had participated in climate change strikes in 270 cities. With so much traction, in only makes sense that Greta began a one year sabbatical from school in 2019.

The Whole World Is Watching Her

Greta appears on large screens at the Climate Action Summit
Stephanie Keith/Getty Images
Stephanie Keith/Getty Images

Greta made her way to the United Nations Climate Action Summit in 2019. Leaders from all over the world watched as Greta pointed her finger at older generations for being more concerned with money than they are with the future of young people like her.

Her use of the phrase “How dare you” has echoed on protest signs across the world. She said in her speech, “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!”

The Voice Of A Generation

Greta and other teens sit at a UN press conference
KENA BETANCUR/AFP/Getty Images
KENA BETANCUR/AFP/Getty Images

Many teens have become inspired by Greta’s lead, and have felt compelled to become more aggressive about deeming climate change a real crisis. In September of 2019, 15 children from around the world joined Greta at a UNICEF press conference.

The teens announced they had filed a lawsuit against Argentina, Brazil, France, Germany, and Turkey for not working toward the emission reduction targets set forth by the Paris Agreement. In the suit, the group cited their rights as children to life, health, and peace as it pertains to handling climate change.

She Testified At Capitol Hill

Greta crosses her arms while testifying at Capitol Hill
Alex Wong/Getty Images
Alex Wong/Getty Images

Greta is seen here looking determined while testifying before Capitol Hill. She urged lawmakers to action and criticized their passivity in the face of climate change. Along with other youth activists, Greta boldly laid out a list of demands for the U.S. government.

One of these demands was to support the Green New Deal, put forth by Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez. The two spoke in a video chat about being shamed for their youth and discussed strategies for being heard.

She May Have A Future In Politics

A woman takes a selfie with Greta in front of the Supreme Court building
OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP/Getty Images
OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP/Getty Images

The May 2019 edition of Time magazine featured Greta, calling her a “next-generation leader.” Exactly a year prior, she a writing competition by Svenska Dagbladet, a Swedish newspaper.

In her essay, she wrote, “I want to feel safe. How can I feel safe when I know we are in the greatest crisis in human history?” Greta is not afraid to be loud about the fear and frustration of much of today’s youth. She demands to be heard on behalf of those who don’t feel they can be.

She Woke Up Britain

Greta is applauded as she walks into the youth climate summit
Stephanie Keith/Getty Images
Stephanie Keith/Getty Images

Britain’s environmental secretary Michael Gove told Greta, “When I listened to you, I felt great admiration, but also responsibility and guilt. I am of your parents’ generation, and I recognise that we haven’t done nearly enough to address climate change and the broader environmental crisis that we helped to create.”

Moreover, a poll by YouGov found that public concern about the environment spiked higher than ever before in the UK since Greta arrived on the scene. In February 2019, Jean-Claude Juncker publicly announced, while standing beside Greta, that one-fourth of the EU budget would be dedication the climate change from 2021-2027.

One Of The Most Influential People

Pope Francis greets Greta in St. Peter's Square
Massimo Valicchia/NurPhoto via Getty Images
Massimo Valicchia/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The April 2019 edition of Time magazine deemed Greta one of the top 100 most influential people of the year. In this photograph, she’s pictured speaking with Pope Francis in Saint Peter’s Square. The pope, like so many others, seems interested in what this powerful young girl has to say.

At the beginning of September 2019, GQ created the Game Changer Award specifically to honor Greta with it. On International Women’s Day in 2019, Greta was pronounced the most important woman of the year in Sweden, based on a newspaper survey.

She Traveled To Another Country With Zero Carbon Emissions

Greta takes a knee on her boat
BEN STANSALL/AFP/Getty Images
BEN STANSALL/AFP/Getty Images

In order to get to New York from the UK without negatively impacting the earth, Greta decided the best way to travel was by a zero-emissions yacht. The name of the boat is Malizia II. The sixteen-year-old traveled for weeks to cross the Atlantic.

She was accompanied by a crew that included captain Boris Herrmann and the founder of the Malizia team, Pierre Casiraghi. Both were honored that Greta trusted their expertise, and admired her courage.

Off To Sea

Greta waves from her yacht
Finnbarr Webster/Getty Images
Finnbarr Webster/Getty Images

Greta and the team set sail from the Mayflower Marina in England on August 14, 2019. The sail on the boat reads one of Greta’s catchphrases, “Unite Behind The Science.” According to CNN, the boat travels through solar panels and underwater turbines.

New York wasn’t Greta’s only stop. She also plans on appearances in Canada, Mexico, and other spots in South America. Since the aviation industry is reported to make up 12% of CO2 emissions from all combined transportation, Greta has agreed to sacrifice her own convenience for the sake of her cause.

She Made It!

Greta sails past the Lady of Liberty
JOHANNES EISELE/AFP/Getty Images
JOHANNES EISELE/AFP/Getty Images

Greta’s arrival to the States was symbolized by this photo taken of her passing the Statue of Liberty. The bottom of her sail reads, “A race we must win! Climate action now!”

Her message seeking a call to action to those in power is illuminated by her commitment to act, as well. According to the Montreal Gazette, Greta even borrowed an electric car from Arnold Schwarzenegger while she was in Canada. The more she shows her devotion, the more people want to support her.

She Inspires People Of All Ages

Greta is greeted by a crowd in the US
Selcuk Acar/NurPhoto via Getty Images
Selcuk Acar/NurPhoto via Getty Images

After a fifteen-day long journey across the Atlantic, Greta finally made it to New York. A crowd of supporters met her at the dock. She kept fans appraised of her trip through social media.

Videos show her in choppy waves as she traversed through the open sea. The crowd met her with applause and handshakes. The look on the little girls’ faces in this photograph shows what a role model Greta has become. Everywhere she goes, people are filming her.

She Made It To The White House

Greta speaks through a megaphone at a crowd of ralliers in front of the White House
Lena Klimkeit/picture alliance via Getty Images
Lena Klimkeit/picture alliance via Getty Images

Greta and other activists gathered before the White House to push U.S. policymakers to help limit the global temperature rise to 1 degree Celsius. The demonstration took place as part of the Juliana vs. the United States case.

The lawsuit “accuses the U.S. of violating the plaintiffs’ rights to due process by failing to adequately address emissions and pollution,” according to The Hill. The activists’ desired temperature limit is less than that set by the Paris climate agreement, which limits the rise to 2 degrees Celsius.

Academics Have Her Back

Greta grins in front of her microphne onstage
Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images
Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images

In February of 2019, more than 200 academics showed their support for Greta and her supporters by signing a letter of support. Currently, Greta is a nominee of the Nobel Peace Prize. Should she win it, she will be the youngest person to every receive the honor.

However, Greta has already won the Right Livelihood Award, which is Sweden’s version of the Nobel Peace Prize. The foundation stated that she won for her inspirational political demands regarding the climate.

New Reporters Are Chasing Down Her Story

Greta stands surrounded by reporters and cameras
FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images
FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images

Now that she’s appeared as a part of the famous climate group Extinction Rebellion, given a TED Talk in Stockholm, spoken at countless gatherings, and has testified before the Supreme Court — all in one year — Greta is quite sought-after by the cameras.

During Canada’s Global Climate Strike, one reporter asked Greta why she invited indigenous youth to lead the protest. She said, “Indigenous people have for centuries and millenniums protected the local environment […] so we need to be able to hear their voices.”

Pardon Her French

Greta wears headphones and a grin while sitting onstage
LIONEL BONAVENTURE/AFP/Getty Images
LIONEL BONAVENTURE/AFP/Getty Images

If you’re wondering why Greta is wearing headphones in this photograph, it’s not because she’s listening to music. The headphones are meant to translate what’s being said while she attended the National Assembly in Paris.

That grin may have something to do with the fact that she just delivered a fierce speech before the French Parliament. She addressed those who refuse to listen to her and other youth activists that they don’t need to listen to them, but they do need to listen to the science.

These War Veterans Are On Her Side

Greta holds her award while standing between two WWII Veterans
JEAN-FRANCOIS MONIER/AFP/Getty Images
JEAN-FRANCOIS MONIER/AFP/Getty Images

Some French politicians have dismissed Greta as the “Justin Beiber of ecology,” according to the news station French 24. However, in June 2019, Greta received the Freedom Prize in Caen, France. In addition to the trophy, she also was awarded 25,000 euros, which she will donate to four climate justice organizations.

She was presented the award before a crowd of 2,000 by two WWII veterans, who sponsored the prize. Greta paid the soldiers homage by stating that she wants to help protect the world that they helped save.

She Won A Golden Camera

Greta receives a golden camera award
Franziska Krug-Pool/Getty Images
Franziska Krug-Pool/Getty Images

In March 2019, Greta won the German Golden Camera award for her activism. In her speech, she encouraged the celebrities in the audience to use their fame to help support the fight against climate change.

The rising number of youth advocates towards climate change has become deemed the “Greta Thunberg effect.” The term also refers to statistical changes that may be related to her activism, like the 8% increase in those who choose trains over planes in Sweden. Despite criticism, she’s made quite an impact in a small amount of time.