Greta Thunberg

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Greta Thunberg
Greta Thunberg, 2018 (cropped).jpg
Greta Thunberg in October 2018
Greta Ernman Thunberg

(2003-01-03) 3 January 2003 (age 16)
OccupationSchoolgirl and climate activist
Known forHaving initiated the worldwide 'School strike for climate' movement
MovementSchool strike for climate
Parent(s)Svante Thunberg
Malena Ernman
RelativesOlof Thunberg (grandfather)

Greta Ernman Thunberg (Swedish pronunciation: [²ɡreːta ²tʉːnbærj]; born 3 January 2003) is a Swedish schoolgirl climate activist who has been described as a role model for worldwide student activism.[1][2] She is famous for having initiated the school strike for climate movement that formed in November 2018 and surged globally after the COP24 conference in December the same year. Her personal activism began in August 2018, when her recurring and solitary Skolstrejk för klimatet ('School strike for the climate') protesting outside the Swedish parliament in Stockholm began attracting media coverage.[3] On 15 March 2019, an estimated number of 1.4 million students in 112 countries around the world joined her call in the striking and protesting.[4] The next major climate strike to take place globally is scheduled on 24 May 2019.[5]

On 13 March 2019, three members of the Norwegian parliament nominated Thunberg as a candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize later this year. Thunberg responded that she was 'honoured and very grateful' for the nomination.[6] Thunberg has already received various prizes and awards for her activism.


Greta Thunberg was born on 3 January 2003.[7] Her mother is Swedish opera singer Malena Ernman and her father is actor Svante Thunberg,[8] who is named after his distant relative Svante Arrhenius.[8][9] Her grandfather is actor and director Olof Thunberg.[10]

At a TED talk In November 2018, Thunberg said she had been diagnosed with Asperger syndrome, obsessive–compulsive disorder (OCD), and selective mutism.[11] She added that selective mutism meant she only talked when she needed to and that 'now is one of those moments'; and that being on the 'spectrum' was an advantage 'as almost everything is black or white'.

To lower her family's carbon footprint, she insisted they become vegan and give up flying,[12] as she did herself.[13] As a collective archetype, Thunberg has been compared both to French medieval maiden warrior Joan of Arc;[14][15] and to Swedish fictional character Pippi Longstocking.[16][17]

School strike for climate[edit]

Greta Thunberg in front of the Swedish parliament in Stockholm, August 2018
Greta Thunberg's bicycle in Stockholm on 11 September 2018: "The climate crisis must be treated as a crisis! The climate is the most important election issue!"
Sign "Follow Greta! Strike for climate" in Berlin (14 December 2018).
Thunberg with German climate activist Luisa Neubauer [de] at a strike in Hamburg, 1 March 2019

On 20 August 2018, Thunberg, who had just started ninth grade, decided to not attend school until the 2018 Sweden general election on 9 September after heat waves and wildfires in Sweden.[18] Her demands were that the Swedish government reduce carbon emissions in accordance with the Paris Agreement, and she protested by sitting outside the Riksdag every day during school hours with the sign Skolstrejk för klimatet (school strike for the climate).[19] After the general elections, she continued to strike only on Fridays, gaining worldwide attention. She inspired school students across the globe to take part in student strikes.[9] As of December 2018, more than 20000 students had held strikes in at least 270 cities.[9] Thunberg credits the teen activists at Parkland school in Florida, who organized the March For Our Lives, as the inspiration to begin her school climate strike.[20][21]

From October 2018 onwards, Thunberg's activism evolved from solitary protesting to taking part in demonstrations throughout Europe; making several high profile public speeches; and mobilising her growing number of followers on social media platforms. However, by March 2019 she still stages her regular protests outside the Swedish parliament every Friday, where other students now occasionally join her. Her activism has not interfered with her schoolwork, but she has had less spare time.[22]

UN General Secretary António Guterres has endorsed the school strikes initiated by Thunberg, admitting that "My generation has failed to respond properly to the dramatic challenge of climate change. This is deeply felt by young people. No wonder they are angry."[23]

Other activism[edit]

Greta Thunberg participated in the Rise for Climate demonstration outside the European Parliament in Brussels. In October 2018, Thunberg and her family drove in an electric car to London, where she addressed the 'Declaration of Rebellion' organized by Extinction Rebellion opposite the Houses of Parliament.[24][25]

On 24 November 2018, she spoke at TEDxStockholm.[26][27][11] She spoke about realising, when she was eight years old, that climate change existed and wondering why it was not headline news on every channel, as if there was a world war going on. She said she did not go to school to become a climate scientist, as some suggested, because the science was done and only denial, ignorance and inaction remained. Speculating that her children and grandchildren would ask her why they had not taken action in 2018 when there was still time, she concluded with "we can’t change the world by playing by the rules, because the rules have to be changed."[28]

Thunberg addressed the COP24 United Nations climate change summit on 4 December 2018[9] and also spoke before the plenary assembly on 12 December 2018.[29][30] During the summit, she also participated in a panel talk together with representatives of the We Don't Have Time Foundation, in which she talked about how the school strike began.[31]

On 23 January 2019, Thunberg arrived in Davos after a 32-hour train journey,[32] in contrast to the many delegates who arrived by up to 1500 individual private jet flights,[33] to continue her climate campaign at the World Economic Forum.[34][35] She told a Davos panel "Some people, some companies, some decision makers in particular have known exactly what priceless values they have been sacrificing to continue making unimaginable amounts of money. I think many of you here today belong to that group of people."[36] Later in the week, she warned the global leaders that "Our house is on fire", adding "I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. We owe it to the young people, to give them hope."[37][38]

On 21 February 2019, she spoke at a conference of the European Economic and Social Committee and to European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker, where she demanded that to still meet the climate goals the EU must reduce their CO
emissions by at least 80% until 2030. Later, she joined the climate protests in Brussels.[39][40]

Prizes and awards[edit]

Greta Thunberg was one of the winners of Svenska Dagbladet's debate article writing competition on the climate for young people in May 2018.[41] Thunberg was nominated for the electricity company Telge Energi's prize for children and young people who promote sustainable development, Children's Climate Prize, but declined because the finalists would have to fly to Stockholm.[42] In November 2018, she was awarded the Fryshuset scholarship of the Young Role Model of the Year.[43] In December 2018, Time magazine named Thunberg one of the world's 25 most influential teenagers of 2018.[44] On the occasion of the International Women's Day Thunberg was proclaimed the most important woman of the year in Sweden in 2019. The award was based on a survey by the institute Inizio on behalf of the newspaper Aftonbladet.[45] Three Norwegian lawmakers nominated Thunberg for the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize.[46][47] On 31 March 2019 she received the German Goldene Kamera Special Climate Protection award.[48][49] On 2 April 2019 the Prix Liberté from Normadie, France.[50] On 12 April 2019 she shared the Fritt Ords Prize from Norway with the Natur og Undon organization.[51] This prize is awarded for freedom of expression.

On 13 March 2019, three members of the Norwegian parliament nominated Thunberg as a candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize later this year. The nominating politicians motivated their decision by arguing that global warming will be the cause of 'wars, conflict and refugees' if nothing is done to halt it. Thunberg responded that she was 'honoured and very grateful' for the nomination.[6] If Thunberg receives the Prize later this year, she will become the youngest person ever to receive it.[52]

In April 2019, Time magazine named Greta Thunberg as one of the hundred most influential people of 2019.[53] In the same month, the Chilean-based organization Fundación Milarepa para el Diálogo con Asia, headed by Mario Aguilar of the University of St. Andrews, announced that Thunberg had been selected as the recepient of the organization's Laudato Si' Award.[54]

Controversy over affiliations[edit]

After her student climate strikes gained momentum, attempts were made to discredit her by climate change deniers,[55] and others tried to benefit from her high profile.[56] In late 2018, Ingmar Rentzhog, founder of the non-profit We Don't Have Time Foundation (WDHT), recruited Thunberg to become an unpaid youth advisor and used Thunberg's name and image without her knowledge or permission to raise millions for WDHT's for-profit subsidiary We Don't Have Time AB, of which Rentzhog is CEO. Thunberg received no money from the company.[57][58] She terminated her volunteer advisor role with WDHT, stating she "is not part of any organization… am absolutely independent… [and] do what I do completely for free."[59]

See also[edit]

  • Severn Cullis-Suzuki – as a minor was also a notable environmental activist
  • Juliana v. United States of America is a lawsuit by 21 youths against the United States for significantly harming their right to life and liberty, and seeks to force the government to adopt methods for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.


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  11. ^ a b Thunberg, Greta (12 December 2018). School strike for climate – save the world by changing the rules. TEDxStockholm. Stockholm: TED. Event occurs at 1:46. Retrieved 29 January 2019. I was diagnosed with Asperger's syndrom, OCD, and selective mutism. That basically means I only speak when I think it's necessary. Now is one of those moments… I think that in many ways, we autistic are the normal ones, and the rest of the people are pretty strange, especially when it comes to the sustainability crisis, where everyone keeps saying that climate change is an existential threat and the most important issue of all and yet they just carry on like before.
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