How a Swedish teenager became the voice of a generation and the planet.
Some people aren’t cut out for accepting the status quo, but it takes a special kind of person to 1) fight for a cause they believe in and 2) inspire others to do the same. Greta Thunberg is one such person.
From outside the building to on the stamps
It’s August 20th 2018 and the first day of the autumn term in Sweden. A fifteen-year-old high schooler has decided she isn’t attending classes. But she’s not bunking off to spend an extra day of holiday hanging with friends. Instead, she’s planted herself outside the Swedish parliament building in Stockholm with her schoolbooks, a cushion, an extra jumper and a simple black and white sign which reads Skolstrejk för klimatet (School Strike for Climate). This strike, which she originally planned to only last for three weeks leading up to the parliamentary elections, would grow into the biggest climate movement the world has ever seen.
Greta outside Parliament House, Stockholm
That is, of course, the fabled story about how Greta ignited the Fridays For Future movement; but her concerns over climate change had been steadily growing for a full seven years beforehand. Whereas most eight-year-olds are concerned about very little for very long, Greta was already questioning why no-one was doing anything about an issue that she identified as posing a serious threat to her, and everyone else’s, future.
Around her 11th birthday, Greta was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, a form of autism spectrum disorder that affects an individual’s social skills but can also lead to the ability to exercise extreme focus. She made it her priority to read up on everything there is to know about climate change and its impacts. Asperger’s, as she puts it, is her “superpower”. But this came at a heavy price. By 11, she said she's become depressed by the seemingly impossible task of stopping climate change.
However, not content to stand by and let it happen, she first convinced her family, who during that period were dealing with some tough issues, to make changes to their lifestyles in order to lower their carbon footprints. Three months before she began her strike, she won a climate change essay competition in a Swedish newspaper. Seven years of study, and suffering, forged today’s Greta—the straight-talking, fact machine who can more than hold her own against the press and world leaders.
From someone who, due to Asperger’s, couldn’t eat or talk in front of other people, in just a few short months she became the figurehead of a global movement, speaking confidently, clearly and emotively at marches and UN Summits. 13 months after she started her solo school strike, Greta led 4 million people, across 161 countries, in what was probably the largest climate strike in history.
Addressing a climate march in Canada
In 2019, she was made Time Person of the Year in honour of her achievements, an award she dedicated to Fridays For Future and activists the world over, and has twice been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. It’s also just been announced that she’ll feature on a new series of postage stamps highlighting the Swedish Government’s environmental quality goals.
From outside the building to on the stamps.
After over a year of touring the world on trains, boats and in Teslas (lent to her by Arnold Schwarzenegger), Greta happily returned to school in August 2020. But, although the so called "Greta Effect" has helped opened many people's eyes to climate change, her work is far from finished.
She’s still an activist and strikes every Friday, at first first back outside the parliament building but then, due to COVID-19, virtually. At the time of writing, she’s on week 127 and Fridays For Future are planning their first global climate strike of 2021 for March 19th.
She also found a moment to deliver this delicious, recycled take down of old adversary, Donald Trump.
So ridiculous. Donald must work on his Anger Management problem, then go to a good old fashioned movie with a friend! Chill Donald, Chill! https://t.co/4RNVBqRYBA— Greta Thunberg (@GretaThunberg) November 5, 2020
Ah Greta, we’re behind you all the way!