“This is all wrong. I shouldn’t be up here,” Thunberg said. “I should be back in school on the other side of the ocean. Yet you have come to us young people for hope. How dare you. You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words.”
Greta Thunberg was born in the city of Stockholm, the capital of Sweden. She first heard about global warming at the age of 8. From then on, she became increasingly invested in the topic. When she reached 15 years of age, she began skipping classes each day to protest outside the Swedish Parliament.
It wasn’t long before she began receiving criticism for her actions, as some thought it was bizarre to skip class to protest. She told The Guardian that she never stopped reading books, especially about climate change. Her protests, she felt, were an opportunity for her to send a message to the government.
She said: “But also I am thinking: what am I missing? What am I going to learn in school? Facts don’t matter anymore; politicians aren’t listening to the scientists, so why should I learn?”
Several years prior, Greta was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, an autistic spectrum disorder that causes individuals to present various symptoms. Some challenges those with Asperger’s Syndrome face include communication and interaction alongside other behavioural challenges such as focusing too much on one subject. This could partly explain Greta’s focus on the climate crisis.
At 16 years of age, Greta was invited to make a speech at a UN Conference. Her life changed entirely from this point on as a spotlight had been officially put on what she was doing. She called out more than 60 global leaders, holding them accountable for not taking any action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and more.
This speech quickly went viral online, and while many related and agreed with her impactful and honest words where she said: “you have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words,” others ripped her apart.
Greta traveled to this conference by boat as she refused to travel via plane from Europe to New York. She crossed the Atlantic sea on a carbon-neutral journey. Her journey took 14 days.
At 17 years of age, her actions continued to be recognised and praised, receiving the prize Gulbenkian for Humanity. This prize provided 1 million euros for innovative initiatives fighting climate change. Greta put this money into the Thunberg Foundation, an organisation created by herself to strengthen projects across the globe.
Her first donation went to the project: SOS Amazonia. They are a Brazilian organisation that deploys innovative ways to tackle both the climate crisis and COVID-19. Today, at 18 years of age, she has been deemed a climate advocate and a voice for change with 12 million followers on social media.
Her strong voice means she can make an impact wherever she goes. She spoke at another UN event last month, Youth4Climate, the initiative that aims to bring together young people between 15 and 29 years old to prepare a climate emergency and action document.
She gave a scathing speech at this event where she said: “Build back better. Blah, blah, blah. Green economy. Blah, blah, blah. Net zero by 2050. Blah, blah, blah. This is all we hear from our so-called leaders. Words that sound great but so far have not led to action. Our hopes and ambitions drown in their empty promises.”
From beginning as an unknown activist to being recognised as Time Person of the Year and her many other achievements, this Swedish teenager has inspired many and will continue to do so. Millions of people have joined her school strikes to encourage political leaders to pay attention to what is happening to the world and propose actions. She proves to be a voice for younger generations across the globe, helping them get what they deserve – a thriving planet.