Greta Thunberg- a name heard around the world. At the ripe age of 19, Thunberg has made incredible strides in the fight against climate change. This environmental activist has had a lot to say the past years, and she is not done yet. Having paved the way for ground breaking changes in society, Thunberg is an influence through the generations.
Growing up in Sweden, Greta had always had a passion for our planet and how to improve it. After hearing about climate change in 2011, when she was just eight,, she was baffled. Thunberg could not understand how things had gotten this bad, not to mention that little to nothing was being done about the catastrophic situation. Despite having brilliant ideas, she hesitated, unsure of how to proceed or if she could truly make a difference.Greta Thunberg stands as one of the most influential figures of our time, leaving an indelible impact on individuals at every stage of life. School strikes fueled her rise to the top of advocacy.
Thunberg conceived the idea after witnessing the impact of climate strikes, inspired by the resonance school shootings had on students returning to school.Students across the nation were refusing going to school, organizing protests and March for Our Lives in regard to gun control.
At first, Thunberg tried to encourage others to join her, but no one was truly educated on the subject or simply interested. This did not stop Greta, instead she took to protesting by herself. During her freshman year of high school, Thunberg took to not going to school for a month until the Swedish general election. At the time Sweden’s hottest summer in 262 years had just concluded, as had an amass of wildfires and heat waves. She believed the government should reduce carbon emissions alongside the Paris Agreement and sat outside the parliament building, the Riksdag, everyday during school hours. Not many approved, especially her teachers, but it was all in good time. Thunberg’s brave act did not go unnoticed, and gave her the results she yearned for.
School Strike for Climate, widely known as Fridays for Future, began to be organized all around the world. The first strike occurred in Brussels on World Children’s Day, with an attendance of over 300 students. Strikes and attendance continued to grow consecutively in other regions of the world including Australia, Poland, Japan, Canada, the United States, etc. Students all over the world would skip their classes on Fridays to participate in the protests. Thunberg, as well as the thousands of students, demanded action from their political leaders regarding climate change. The main request? For the fossil fuel industry to transition to using renewable energy.
Greta Thunberg’s influence led to an international movement for climate change. Mass strikes took place in January of 2019, where at least 45,000 students in Switzerland skipped class to protest unjust policies on global warming. After organized protests across the globe for months, real change began to happen. In February of 2019, the President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, had vowed to spend hundreds of billions of euros on climate change reduction, amounting to a fourth of the European Union budget. Juncker decided to announce the news in a speech, accompanied by none other than Greta Thunberg. Media outlets credited the pressure from the school strike movement, in addition to Thunberg herself, with provoking the quick and public announcement.
The Greta Thunberg Effect is quite simple, those familiar with her are more likely to participate in the fight against climate change. In a United States national survey conducted by the Society for Personality and Social Psychology of over 1,300 adults, studies showed an abundance of individuals willing to take action. This can range from signing petitions, pressuring elected officials, making donations, attending protests, and making lifestyle changes. This information is not just limited to young, liberal adults. Rather it goes across the spectrum of all ages and political views. Of course not everyone who knows of Thunberg is automatically becoming a radical climate change activist, but that they feel empowered through her to make a difference. Thunberg is young, but has effectively educated well over ten million people on the importance of stopping climate change.
While Greta Thunberg has a mass of followers and admirers, she is not without her detractors. There is a large ranking of people who have negative things to say about a young woman activist. However, surprisingly, or not so surprisingly, a large number of them are male celebrities. She is a force that cannot be reckoned with, despite people thinking she is brainwashed or a spoilt brat.
Most opposed to Thunberg’s activism is none other than former president of the United States, Donald J. Trump. Trump is known for his mockery of other individuals, activists, celebrities, etc. Following a speech Thunberg made about world leaders not doing enough to combat the climate crisis and being named Time’s youngest Person of the Year, Trump had a few choice words. He took to his twitter page to tweet, “So ridiculous. Greta must work on her Anger Management problem, then go to a good old fashioned movie with a friend! Chill Greta, Chill!”
Despite other proclamations or hopes of Greta’s downfall, she has made continuous strides and accomplishments. This includes two nominations for the Nobel Peace Prize, Forbes list of 100 Most Powerful Women, International Children’s Peace Prize, Ambassador of Conscience Award, Swedish Woman of the Year, and an honorary Doctor of Laws to name a few. Additionally, Thunberg has a few published works under her belt. Published in 2019, “No One Is Too Small to Make a Difference”, is a collection of her climate action speeches with all earnings being donated to charity. She was also a joint author on “Our House is On Fire: Scenes of a Family and Planet in Crisis” published in 2021 alongside Svante Thunberg Malena Ernman, and Beata Ernman.
Thunberg is an inspiration not only for climate change, but for being a figure of empowerment for those that share her diagnosis. At a TEDx Talk in Stockholm during 2018 Thunberg says, “I was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, OCD, and selective mutism. That basically means I only speak when I think it’s necessary. Now is one of those moments”. Greta has made hundreds of speeches with poise and true honesty, becoming a great symbol for others who may not feel brave to speak even when they find it necessary.
There is no doubt that Greta Thunberg has been an influential person in society. Alongside the Greta effect, and the outpour of new published works on environmental activism, she is also changing travel. In an article from the National Education Association published in 2019 by Cindy Long, “Thunberg’s journey across the sea was rough and long, but purposeful. A flight would have taken hours rather than days but because of jet-engine emissions, she refused to travel by air. Many of her fellow Swedes are also remaining grounded. “Flight shame” has kept more and more Swedes off of planes and onto other modes of travel”.
Greta Thunberg will undoubtedly go down in history for the strides she has taken in the fight against climate change. The movements, laws, and changes made so far thanks to Thunberg has already helped our future. However, Greta is far from done with fighting and still has a lot more goals to pursue. She has purpose, passion, and power to change the world. No matter how small or young she may be, she will always be mighty.
Edited by: Sally (Anh) Ngo
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