Wednesday 1/20/21
CLIMATE ACTION

Greta Thunberg turns 18

Over the years, Thunberg has inspired millions of children and young people but she has also been the target of spiteful and hateful comments, even threats, especially on the internet.

Climate activist Greta Thunberg speaks during a Fridays for Future protest calling for a better climate policy. Photo: Christian Charisius/file photo.
Climate activist Greta Thunberg speaks during a Fridays for Future protest calling for a better climate policy. Photo: Christian Charisius/file photo.

Swedish teen climate activist Greta Thunberg won international attention after she began a lone school strike outside the Swedish parliament in August 2018.

On Sunday, she turns 18, giving her, for instance, the right to marry, to drive a car - and the right to vote in the next Swedish general election scheduled in 2022.

"Every election is a climate election," Thunberg has often said.

Her protest outside parliament - where she used a hand-painted sign with the words "School strike for the climate" - aimed to push for more action on climate change and eventually inspired the youth-led movement Fridays For Future, which has staged a series of global climate strikes.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, protests and rallies have been scaled back this year, and Thunberg and others have had to resort to online protests.

Since 2018, Thunberg has had two consecutive nominations for the Nobel Peace Prize, received several other accolades and awards, and addressed world leaders at various conferences and summits.

The idea for a school strike was inspired by students at a high school in Parkland, Florida, where 17 students and staff members were gunned down in February 2018.

"I think Rosa Parks was also a great example, an introvert and shy person I'd read about. Nowadays everyone has to be an extrovert and social," she has said.

Criticized politicians

Her rallying call has been to "listen to the science," urging decision makers to take action, and she has repeatedly criticized politicians for passing the buck to children.

Come Sunday, Thunberg is no longer a child, but her fight for climate will likely continue unabated.

In a recent interview with Stockholm daily Svenska Dagbladet, she cited signs of hope in "the opportunities that exist in democracy and popular education, the potential in when people become aware."

She applied that herself when she served as guest editor-in-chief of Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter: The December 6 edition was dominated by climate-related articles.

The first section featured a headline photo of a huge crater in Siberia illustrating how the permafrost is melting, and a feature article about a village in Russia' Arctic at the shores of the Barents Sea where the ice has disappeared.

"Handing over responsibility for Sweden's largest daily newspaper to a minor, an uneducated activist, is completely incomprehensible. It's crazy, if it were not for the absurd fact that we are in an existential crisis that is still ignored by our society," Thunberg wrote in a editorial.

For the past decade she has mulled issues related to global warming and climate change. At age 11, she suffered from depression. A contributing factor was the perception that not enough was done to tackle global warming.

Hateful comments, threats

Thunberg has over the years also been the target of spiteful and hateful comments, even threats - especially on the internet.

US President Donald Trump - who has a different stance on climate change - has tweeted about her, and she has responded in kind.

After a gap year - when she sailed to and from the United States, since she refuses to fly to avoid harming the environment - Thunberg in August 2020 enrolled in a high school.

She seeks to protect her privacy, and the few interviews she grants are used to focus on climate issues, rather than her person.

She has also sought to use her fame to shed spotlight on young climate activists in other parts of the world.

In 2020, she established a non-profit foundation to promote ecological and social sustainability, and mental health.

Thunberg has Asperger's syndrome, an autism spectrum disorder. She has said it helps her focus on issues she finds important, noting "there are no grey areas when it comes to survival."

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