Who is Greta Thunberg?


@gretathunberg / Instagram

Naomi Bitton

All political actions must come from a voice. Everyone has the ability to act against a situation that they feel is immoral. For the issue of climate change, Greta Thunberg has been a young and powerful leading voice. At 15 years old, Thunberg began protesting climate change by standing outside the Swedish parliament holding a sign that reads “Skolstrejk för klimatet,” or “School strike for the climate.” Thunberg began her climate strike by not attending school on Fridays and protesting on the streets of Sweden. Today, Thunberg speaks out to politicians and people around the world on the issue of climate change and is the author of a novel titled “No One is Too Small to Make a Difference.”

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‪School strike. Week 57. ‬ ‪New York City. #ClimateStrike #FridaysForFuture #schoolstrike4climate ‬

A post shared by Greta Thunberg (@gretathunberg) on

As a student in high school, Thunberg would typically be spending her weeks in class. However, she began what is now a worldwide movement called Fridays for Future. This campaign encourages people—mainly students—to discard their typical Friday schedules and protest against climate change instead. What began as a single act of defiance is now a weekly organized protest that has been held in countries like Uganda, New Zealand, Colombia, Germany, and many more. On Jan. 17 and 18, approximately 45,000 students protested in Switzerland and Germany in conjunction with this political action. Thunberg’s decision to work against the dismissal of climate change by many politicians attracted a large following.

Now 16, Thunberg was called to attend the UN General Assembly, UN Youth Summit, and to speak in the UN Climate Action Summit. The latter took place from Sept. 21–23 and discussed the need for climate action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and their negative effects on the environment. Before the summit, people marched through the streets towards downtown Manhattan in support of climate action. Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office estimated that there were at least 60,000 protestors, while organizers of the march assumed 250,000. The crowd marched from Foley Square to Battery Park where a series of speakers and artists, from Thungberg to Jaden and Willow Smith, spoke in support of action.

Thunberg is a young woman who exemplifies all that she advocates. To attend the summit, Thunberg traveled for 15 days in a zero-emissions yacht from Plymouth in the U.K. to New York. Commercial airplanes emit large amounts of greenhouse gases, which contradicts Thunberg’s proposals to reduce environmentally damaging greenhouse gas emissions. Therefore, the yacht Thunberg traveled on uses underwater generator turbines powered by solar panels to avoid any harmful emissions.

At the summit, Thunberg spoke about the dire need for politicians to act on reversing the negative effects climate change may have on future generations. Thunberg condemned politicians saying,

“You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words…. 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 fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you!”

She continued, directing her conversation towards the older generation of politicians at the conference, “For more than 30 years, the science [of climate change] has been crystal clear. How dare you continue to look away and come here saying that you’re doing enough, when the politics and solutions needed are still nowhere in sight…There will not be any solutions or plans presented in line with these figures here today, because these numbers are too uncomfortable. And you are still not mature enough to tell it like it is.”

As the University is a campus with many politically driven students, many had thoughts on Thunberg and her actions. University sophomore Emily Keegan-Wolf expressed, “I thought [the Youth Climate Strike] was great. It was my first protest and it was amazing to see so many people of different ages, backgrounds, cultures, and genders coming together. People truly care about our environment and especially the younger generations. I think that the climate strike will definitely make an impact on political and government officials, but there is also so much to do. I’ve only recently become familiar with Greta, but I know she’s doing amazing things especially at her age.”

University sophomore Amanda Goldberg said, “I don’t know much about Greta Thunberg, but I’ve been hearing her name a lot recently. At the Climate Strike, everyone was chanting her name. I do know that she’s a Swedish queen who’s 16 years old and already presented at the UN for climate change!”

University freshman, Abigail Weisman said, “[Greta Thunberg] is a true reminder that people of the young generation can make an impact and create change for the better in society. The fact that she’s been able to be so politically active and have a voice that is impacting not only Sweden, where she is from, but countries all around the world in amazing.”

Whether in Sweden or in New York City, she has been promoting change and a better environment for future generations. In March, Thunberg was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. More recently, she was one of the four winners of the Right Livelihood Award, also known as the Alternative Nobel Peace Prize, which recognizes individuals who did not receive a Nobel but were deemed worthy of one. According to the Right Livelihood Award page, Thunberg was awarded “for inspiring and amplifying political demands for urgent climate action reflecting scientific facts.”

Thunberg has become a household name for the political movement against climate change. She has proved that no one is too young or alone to protest for change. What began as a movement with her sitting alone outside of the Swedish parliament, has now escalated into an international movement preaching for change. Whether you attended the climate strike or not, Thunberg is a name to become familiar with. At this age and rate of her political career, it seems she will continue to be in the public, political news for years to come.