By Veliah Holden
In August 2018, at the age of just 15, Greta Thunberg sat outside the Swedish Parliament with a simple sign that said “Skolstrejk för Klimatet” meaning “School Strike For Climate.”
On that day, she was alone in front of the building. Today, millions gather with her every Friday, and all over the world, to strike for climate change.
Greta has fittingly named this movement “Fridays for Future.” Children and teens from all over the world are encouraged to leave school on Fridays to go to their cities’ town halls and strike in front of them. The strikes are entirely violent-free so the strikers do not have to worry about getting hurt while they protest. In just under a year, Thunberg has inspired millions of teens to join her in this fight against climate change. She says the strikes will continue every Friday for “as long as it takes” politicians and world leaders to take notice and take action.
By this time, Greta has been able to give many speeches about climate to many people of power. Greta has a condition known as Asperger’s Syndrome, which she calls her “superpower.” Greta says the condition means she only speaks when she sees it is necessary. This allows her to be very blunt and straightforward when speaking to world leaders. She is known for having quite the sharp tongue.
In May 2019, Thunberg was featured on the cover of Time magazine, in which she was named a “next generation leader,” and it was noted that thousands of people see her as a role model.
Greta and her “Fridays for Future” movement were also featured in a Vice documentary titled “Make the World Greta Again.” Her impact on the world is beginning to be named the sign that started it all. “Greta Thunberg effect” because she has sparked hope into so
many. Greta has also been awarded multiple honors and awards including the Goldene Kamera, Ambassador of Conscience Award, the Rachel Carson Prize and the International Children's Peace Prize. She has also been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.
In August 2019, Greta sailed across the Atlantic Ocean from Plymouth, UK to New York City. She did so in a 60 foot yacht that was equipped with solar panels and underwater turbines. The carbon-production-free trip was a strong demonstration of Thunberg's beliefs and her cause. The voyage lasted for 15 days.
From Aug. 14 to 28. while in the Americas, Thunberg attended the UN Climate Action Summit in NYC, and will attend the COP 25 Climate Change Conference in Santiago, Chile in December.
On Sept. 23 UNICEF hosted a press conference in New York where Greta joined 15 other children to speak. Together, they announced that they had made an official complaint against five countries who are not on track to meet the emission reduction targets that they agreed and committed to in their Paris Agreement pledges. The five nations were France, Argentina, Turkey, Brazil, and Germany.
Under the Third Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the complaint challenges the five countries. The Protocol is a mechanism which allows children, who believe their rights have been violated, to bring a complaint before the Committee on the Rights of the Child. If the complaint is successful, the countries will be asked to respond, but the suggestions are not legally binding.
Greta and her campaign has received its fair share of “hate” from some political leaders. Most prominently, the president of Russia Vladimir Putin, U.S. President Donald Trump, French president Emmanuel Macron, and MANY social media commentators. The criticism is quite cruel considering Thunberg’s age and disorders.
Following Greta and friends’ lawsuit against those five countries for not being on track to meet the emission reduction targets they committed to, Emmanuel Macron criticized her, saying that “such radical positions antagonize our societies.” He also added that “she should focus on those that are blocking, and those that are the furthest (from meeting the target).”
In an opinion column, Christopher Caldwell said that Greta’s straightforward approach to the climate change issue will bring protesters into conflict with the difficulties of decision making in Western democracies. French philosopher Raphaël Enthoven claims that many people “buy virtue” with their support for Thunberg but they do not actually do anything to help.
In September 2019, Donald Trump shared a video of Thunberg addressing world leaders quite angrily. He posted this along with a quote of hers that states “people are dying, entire ecosystems are collapsing. We are in the beginning of a mass extinction.” Trump mocked Thunberg saying “She seems like a very happy young girl looking forward to a bright and wonderful future. It’s so nice to see!”
Thunberg’s reaction included changing her Twitter bio to match his description of her, and stating she could not “understand why grown-ups would choose to mock children and teenagers for just communicating and acting on the science when they could do something good instead.”
Checkmate? In October 2019, Trump once again shared a Twitter post which mocked Thunberg and called her an “actress,” while praising the person who wrote that post for her. That seems just a tad hypocritical, does it not?
Also in October 2019, Putin described Thunberg as a “very sincere and kind girl” while suggesting she was being manipulated to serve others’ interests. Putin then criticized her, calling her “poorly informed” and saying “No one has explained to Greta that the modern world is complex and different and people in Africa or in many Asian countries want to live at the same wealth level as in Sweden.”
Yet again, Greta subtly clapped back at him similarly to how she handled Trump. She proceeded to update her Twitter bio to say Putin’s description of her.
Thunberg was also criticized by the Australian commentator and climate change denier, Andrew Bolt. Thunberg had just announced she would be travelling to the United States in a carbon-free yacht. Bolt remarked that she has a “cult following” and calling her “freakishly influential for a girl so young and with so many mental disorders.”
Regardless of all backlash and hate, Greta Thunberg continues to fight against climate change and she does not appear to be stopping anytime soon.