It’s been quite a year for Greta Thunberg. As well as leading millions of people in climate protests around the world, the 16-year-old activist has addressed the United Nations, met and harangued world leaders. It’s no wonder that TimeMagazine named her its Person of the Year.
Thunberg never imagined her solo protest would have such an effect. She had been concerned about climate change since she was eight. She had become vegan to reduce her carbon footprint.
She was one of a group of Swedish students who were inspired by the impact of the anti-gun movement started by the survivors of the Parkland High School shootings in Florida in 2018.
But Greta’s group couldn’t decide what form their actions should take, so, in August 2018, Greta started a weekly protest alone, sitting outside Sweden’s parliament in her home city of Stockholm. Images of her and her hand-lettered sign “School Climate Strike” made their way onto social media and school climate strikes broke out in other countries under the banner “Fridays for Future”.
Thunberg was invited to speak to business leaders at Davos and the COP 25 summit in Madrid.
Speaking from the Heart
In September 2019, the video of her speech to the United Nations Climate Action Summit went viral with its refrain, "How dare you!"
"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!"
Seven million young activists joined Friday’s for Future protests around the world in September following the speech.
Thunberg constantly quotes scientific sources in her speeches and is careful to point out that the world’s richest countries, the largest historic contributors to global warming, now have to make a bigger contribution to reducing it than developing countries that often suffer the consequences.
She is taking a sabbatical for this school year to continue to protest. She tries to stick to her values, refusing to travel by plane, which has meant crossing the Atlantic by sailing boat.
Youngest Person of the Year
At just 16, Greta Thunberg is youngest "Person of the Year" ever selected by Time in the 92-year history of the feature. The news magazine's editorial explained the choice of someone from outside the political or humanitarian mainstream, "...in this moment when so many traditional institutions seem to be failing us, amid staggering inequality and social upheaval and political paralysis, we are seeing new kinds of influence take hold."
The editorial team is certainly in tune with its readers, who voted by 30% in a poll to name the student protesters in Hong Kong as a collective Person of the year.
Joshua Wong, one of the Hong Kong protest leaders, showed his support for Thunberg in a Tweet:
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