Greta Thunberg: 5 Things To Know About The 16-Year-Old Climate Activist Changing The World

Greta Thunberg is taking the world by storm with her unapologetic climate activism and criticism of world leaders. Here's what you need to know about this teenager who's trying to save the world.

Greta Thunberg
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Calling it: Greta Thunberg, 16, will go down in history as one of the most influential activists of our time. The teenager is the leader of a passionate movement to save Planet Earth with a simple premise: get world leaders to wake up and enact policies to help combat climate change before it’s too late. Learn more about this brave, young woman who is inspiring students around the world — and adults — to strike, protest, and do their part in saving the environment:

1. She demonstrated for a year outside the Swedish parliament building. Greta began sitting outside the Swedish parliament by herself in August 2018, when she was just 15. Armed with a sign that read, “Skolstrejk för klimatet” (School strike for climate), Greta skipped school every Friday to urge her government to push stronger climate action. Word of Greta’s movement began to spread, and soon, other students began striking in their own communities.

2. Her global movement is called Fridays for Future. Greta and other students continued to skip class on Fridays to protest outside their respective government buildings, soon organizing a school climate strike movement called Fridays for Future. After Greta’s powerful address at the 2018 UN Climate Change Conference, the number of school strikes by likeminded students grew rapidly. “Our leaders are like children,” she said. The 2019 Global Climate Strike brought together millions of students worldwide.

3. She sailed across the Atlantic Ocean to visit the United States. Greta sailed to New York from Plymouth, England in August 2019, for a journey that took 15 days. The teenager, who refuses to fly because of the carbon emissions, completed her journey on a 60 ft racing yacht equipped with solar panels and underwater turbines. The sail on the carbon-neutral yacht was emblazoned with the words “UNITE BEHIND THE SCIENCE”. After attending the Global Climate Strike and UN Climate Action Summit, Greta will stay in the Americas for nine months, next heading to Santiago, Chile, for the COP 25 climate change conference. Compulsory schooling in Sweden ends at age 16; Greta is currently taking a gap year while focusing on activism.

4. She has Asperger syndrome. Greta was diagnosed with Asperger’s, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and selective mutism when she was 11 years old, after becoming depressed and refusing to speak or eat. While Greta has acknowledged that her diagnosis limited her in the past, she doesn’t see it that way anymore. She tweeted on August 31, while in the middle of her transatlantic sail, “When haters go after your looks and differences, it means they have nowhere left to go. And then you know you’re winning! I have Aspergers and that means I’m sometimes a bit different from the norm. And – given the right circumstances- being different is a superpower. #aspiepower”.

5. She gave a historic speech at the United Nations. Greta put the leaders of the world on blast during a haunting speech at the UN on September 23, which was met with thunderous applause and praise. “You all come to us for hope. How dare you. You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words,” she said angrily, while on the verge of tears. “You are failing us. The young people are starting to understand your betrayal. The eyes of all future generations are upon you. And if you choose to fail us, I say, we will never forgive you. Right here, right now is where we draw the line. The world is waking up and change is coming whether you like it or not.”

Some conservatives and climate change-deniers took issue with her speech, though. Fox News’ Laura Ingraham compared Greta to one of the Children of the Corn. And President Donald Trump wrote a tweet that many perceived to be sarcastic: “She seems like a very happy young girl looking forward to a bright and wonderful future. So nice to see!” Greta got the last laugh by turning that same (fake?) compliment into a Twitter bio, which The View’s Sunny Hostin happily pointed out in the tweet above!

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