Photo Source: MANGTRE Team
At the age of 15, little Swedish environment activist’s campaign began with solo climate protests and later her protest drew 4 million in the latest strikes. Undoubtedly, Greta Thunberg is the face of the worldwide movement to fight climate change - a global icon that the planet desperately needs.
Greta Thunberg was born on 3 January 2003, in Stockholm, Sweden, the daughter of opera singer Malena Ernman and actor Svante Thunberg. She first heard about climate change in 2011 and was shocked that adult did not appear to be taking the issue seriously, which made her depressed and diagnosed with Asperger syndrome, obsessive–compulsive disorder (OCD), and selective mutism. However, she sees her condition not as a disability but as a gift that has helped open her eyes to the climate crisis.
Thunberg's activism began by persuading her parents to adopt lifestyle choices that reduced their own carbon footprint by becoming vegan, upcycling, and giving up flying. Her parents eventually agreed, and it gave her hope and belief that she could make a difference.
In August 2018, at age 15, she started spending her school days outside the Swedish Parliament to call for stronger action on climate change in accordance with the Paris Agreement. Although she was alone for the first day of the strike, Thunberg was joined each subsequent day by more and more people, and her story soon garnered international attention. Just over 6 months, multiple coordinated multi-cities protests in March 2019 drew more than a million people, which was only surpassed by her latest demonstration in September with at least 4 million participants.
Thunberg received numerous invitations to speak about climate change. In political chambers and on the streets, her cutting and inspiring words have awakened countless people to the climate and ecological emergencies.
"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 the house was on fire—because it is" - Thunberg's speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos, January 25 2019
In September 2019 she condemned world leaders in an emotional speech at the UN, telling them:
“You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words… But the young people are starting to understand your betrayal. The eyes of all future generations are upon you. And if you choose to fail us, I say: We will never forgive you.”
Public response and impact
Her influence on the world stage has been described by The Guardian and other newspapers as the "Greta effect". She received numerous honours and awards, including an honorary Fellowship of the Royal Scottish Geographical Society, being the youngest Time Person of the Year and three consecutive nominations for the Nobel Peace Prize (2019–2021).
However, Greta Thunberg has been criticized by politicians as well, including Australian prime minister Scott Morrison, German chancellor Angela Merkel, Russian President Vladimir Putin and the former U.S. President Donald Trump. Some stated that she oversimplifies the complex issues involved, considered her as poorly informed or suggested she was being manipulated to serve others' interests. But she didn't care: “It’s a positive sign. I think that must be because they see us as a threat. That means that something has changed in the debate, and we are making a difference.”