Greta Thunberg: The girl behind climate strikes

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Photo via Wikimedia Commons under Creative Commons license

Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg stands in protest with her “School Strike for Climate” sign.

Clare Erwin, The Delphi Editor

In August of 2018, a young girl with a sign reading “School Strike for Climate” sat alone outside the Swedish Parliament building. It was a Friday, and instead of attending school, 15-year-old Greta Thunburg was beginning a global movement to fight climate change.

Thunberg first heard of the devastating effects of climate change at 8-years-old and couldn’t ignore them. She felt isolated and went through a period of depression before being diagnosed with Aspergers, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and Selective Mutism. However, Thunberg is no longer afraid to speak out about what makes her different, and has even referred to Aspergers, which falls on the autism spectrum, as her “superpower.” She has therefore not only become a role model for climate activists everywhere, but also one for those who are affected by disabilities and the stigmas that surround them.

After sharing photos of her strike on social media, Thunberg began to gain global recognition, and her cause quickly inspired an international student protest known as “Fridays for Future.” More than 4 million people from over 100 countries have followed in Thunburg’s footsteps, using school strikes and similar demonstrations to demand stricter environmental policies in order to combat global warming.

Students at Del Val have a lot to say about Thunberg and what she’s doing. “I look up to her. I think she’s a great example of what our generation can do if we put in the work,” junior Jordan Clapp said. “[Global Warming] is a problem that people won’t realize until they’re knee deep in it.” To others, climate change doesn’t feel as imminent. “I just don’t think it’s that much of a problem,” an anonymous student said.

I look up to her. I think she’s a great example of what our generation can do if we put in the work”

— Jordan Clapp

Despite the attention she’s received, (she has already met with the Pope, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and former President Barack Obama, among other prominent world leaders), Thunberg is uninterested in her own popularity. She instead remains focused on spreading her message, and the message of the many scientists who fear for the future of Earth.

Of course, it’s difficult to be so well-known, especially at such a young age. Despite her fame, Thunberg is open about the criticisms she receives through social media, including comments made about her appearance and her diagnosis. She has proven able to rise above the negative words, instead using them as motivation. “When haters go after your looks and differences, it means they have nowhere left to go. And then you know you’re winning!” Thunburg’s recently captioned one of her Instagram posts.

In August of 2019, Thunberg traveled across the Atlantic Ocean on a zero-emissions yacht (Thunberg is adamant about not flying, due to the carbon emissions created by flying) to attend the United Nations Climate Action Summit in New York City. It was there that she made her most powerful speech, criticizing the actions, or lack thereof, of today’s leaders. “The eyes of all future generations are upon you,” Thunburg said. “And if you choose to fail us, I say – we will never forgive you.”

Andy Bosselman, Photo via Wikimedia Commons under Creative Commons license
Greta Thunberg speaks to climate strikers in Denver, CO in 2019.

Thunberg embarked on a similar voyage in November, this time sailing with an Australian family who offered her a ride, to attend the U.N.’s Climate Change summit in Madrid, Spain.

In December, Thunberg became the youngest person in history to be awarded Time Magazine’s Person of the Year. She was also nominated for the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize, and although the award went to Abiy Ahmed, Thunburg has been nominated once again for the award in 2020.

Thunberg most recently spoke at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, where she warned of the dangers of the global temperature rise, and the importance of staying below 1.5 degrees Celsius. “Because even at 1 degree people are dying from climate change because that is what the united science calls for, to avoid destabilising the climate so that we have the best possible chance to avoid setting off irreversible chain reactions,” she said.

Pullquote Photo

We showed that we are united and that we, young people, are unstoppable.”

— Greta Thunberg

Thunberg turned 17 this January, and she has made it clear that she isn’t going to stop spreading her message, so long as the world stands idle in the face of climate change. She plans to continue to raise awareness by speaking on behalf of science wherever she gets the opportunity and by continuing her #FridaysforFuture school strikes. As she said at U.N. summit in York, “We showed that we are united and that we, young people, are unstoppable.”

Thunberg’s transformation from a silent introvert to one of the most influential voices in the fight against climate change is a testament to the power of youth and the importance of perseverance. Her bravery is displayed by her unique ability to speak the truth, regardless of what others think, and it is that bravery that just might save the planet.