Greata Thunberg understood and heard about climate change when she was 8 years old and was baffled about the lack of action by world leaders. She was later diagnosed with depression and subsequently Asperger syndrome, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and selective mutism. She did not let this hinder her cause.
Her first foray into making a difference was with her family. She challenged her parents to lower the family’s carbon footprint and go vegan. Her parents’ encouraging response and gradual acceptance in the change of their lifestyle gave her hope. She realized she could make a difference.
Greta was inspired to go on a climate strike after the school shootings in the US, which allowed many teen activists to take the road. She recognized that climate change, like gun control, needs to be emphasized by everyone.
In May 2018, she won an essay-writing competition on climate change held by Svenska Dagbladet, a Swedish newspaper. The essay was published in the paper. She was consequently contacted by Bo Thoren, of the Fossil Free Dalsland group, who spoke to her about school children marching for climate change.
Initially, Greata Thunberg tried asking others to join the strike, but nobody relented. She decided to do it all by herself. In August 2018, she decided to not attend school until the Swedish government actively reduced carbon emissions according to the Paris Agreement.
She started the protest by sitting outside the Riksdag every day and did this for three weeks while holding the banner ‘School Strike for the Climate’ (Skolstrejk för klimatet).
She gathered momentum to her cause through social media, and her cause went viral on Instagram and Twitter.
The news quickly spread, and she attracted international coverage. She inspired many school students to the same across the globe. By the end of 2018, she had successfully motivated over 20,000 students to hold strikes in over 200 cities.
After October 2018, she was not a solitary protestor anymore. She traveled throughout Europe, gave speeches, mobilized her followers and stirred them to action, and slowly became an influencer on her own.
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She was nominated for the Children's Climate Prize in November 2018; Greta Thunberg refused to accept this on the grounds that finalists had to fly to Stockholm to attend the ceremony. She stated that this went against her values of leaving a low carbon footprint.
At the end of 2018, Greta Thunberg became a recognized climate activist with her protests and was a global figure. Her activism was covered by many media outlets. Despite missing school, she was supported by many of her friends, teachers, and parents. She continued protesting at the Swedish parliament and others joined her.
In February 2019, many academics signed an open letter extending their support for Greta and her acting. Later, she voiced over the song ‘The 1975’, where she spoke about the need for rebellion and civil disobedience regarding the lack of action concerning climate change.
She continued making speeches at global platforms such as the European Parliament, TEDxSTockholm, COP24 Summit, Davos, European Economic and Social Committee, Brandenburg Gate, and at the Austrian World Summit R20.
In May 2019, she published a compilation of her climate action speeches titled ‘No One Is Too Small to Make a Difference’ and announced that the earnings will proceed to charity. The book has climbed many bestseller charts and continues to inspire thousands.
Later in May 2019, a 30-minute documentary titled ‘Make the World Greta Again’ was released by Vice. Though it featured Greta as the main inspiration, the documentary also explored other youth protest activists in Europe.
In August 2019, Greta Thunberg journeyed from Plymouth, UK to New York, US in a yacht that was driven with solar panels and underwater turbines. The trip demonstrated the importance of reducing emissions and the possible solutions that can be undertaken.
After reaching New York in fifteen days, Thunberg took part in the UN Climate Action Summit in New York. She later attended the COP 25 climate change conference in Santiago, Chile.
In September 2019, she joined hands along with George Monbiot to produce a short film that focused on the need to protect and restore nature too combat global climate change. The movie was directed by Tom Mustill.
Awards & Achievements
By the end of 2018, Thunberg became among the most recognized teenagers in the world. She was awarded the Fryshuset scholarship of the Young Role Model of the Year. Later, she was named as one of the world’s most influential teenagers in 2018 by Time magazine.
In March 2019, on International Women’s Day, she was announced as the most important woman of the year in Sweden based on a survey. Later in the month, she won the German Goldene Kamera Special Climate Protection award.
Her other honors include the Prix Liberté from Normandy, the Norwegian Fritt Ords Prize, Laudato Si' Prize, Geddes Environment Medal, and the Ambassador of Conscience award. She has also been nominated as a candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2019.
She was named among the 100 Most Influential People of 2019 by Time Magazine. Later, she was also awarded an honorary degree by the University of Mons.