Now with the rest of the world’s eyes upon her, she fights tirelessly to save the world. Obviously, we can’t all be Greta Thunberg but we can learn a little more about her, so let’s take a look at her life and work so far…
A Quirky Swede
Greta Thunberg was born and raised in Sweden's capital city, Stockholm. Although many people would think Thunberg is just another quirky Swede, that's only partially true.
Greta comes from a family of professional musicians and performers. Her paternal grandfather was the famous actor and director, Olof Thunberg. Greta's mother is an opera singer who's performed at the Eurovision song contest and her father is an actor.
An Interesting Lineage
Sure, there's the fact that neither of her parents has a background in environmentalism. But, Greta is related to the Nobel Prize-winning scientist Svante Arrhenius, on her father's side.
In fact, her dad was named after him! Svante Arrhenius discovered the greenhouse effect emitted by carbon dioxide in 1896. Svante went on to make many contributions to the scientific world during his career and his work played a pivotal role in the emergence of modern climate science. Now, isn't that interesting?!
Where It All Began
When Thunberg first heard about climate change, she was only eight years old. The concept stuck with little Greta as she simply could not understand why leaders weren’t taking the threats to our planet more seriously.
Knowing about the disastrous effects of global warming and climate change really upset Greta. She just could not understand why humans hadn’t taken any substantial steps regarding that.
At the age of 11, Thunberg went through a period of severe depression which caused her to stop talking, reading, and eating, she simply didn't want to do anything. Scared for their daughter, her parents decided to have her see a specialist.
The doctor she saw then diagnosed her with Asperger syndrome, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and selective mutism. Her selective mutism made it so that she couldn't speak a word to anyone but her family for three whole years.
It's Her Superpower
Asperger’s Syndrome is a disorder on the Autism spectrum, but those with Asperger’s Syndrome are generally considered high functioning with some social impairments.
Ever the optimist, Thunberg has described her diagnosis as a superpower, stating that “not caring about social codes and conventions” has aided her trademark bluntness in addressing environmental issues. “We need people who think outside the box and who aren’t just following the crowd like everyone else.”
Critics Won't Stop Her
The internet has a lot to say about Greta Thunberg, but she doesn't let petty adversity get her down.
Her bold stance on environmental activism has garnered quite a lot of flack and bullying but in response, she simply said, "When haters go after what makes your different, it means they have nowhere left to go. And then you know you’re winning!"
It Begins At Home
Before Greta became a household name, famous for her scathing speeches, her advocacy began at home with her family.
She first urged her parents to adopt an eco-friendly lifestyle which meant going vegan and giving up flying. This meant that Greta's mother had to give up her international singing career as she could only travel to places by train or boat.
One Committed Family
When asked about the one thing that keeps her so committed to her cause, Greta credits her family's unequivocal support.
It's a tough world out there for environmental activists, and Greta is no exception, but she says her parent's sacrifices have only helped her stand so firmly in environmental conservation, which she says only reinforces her belief that she can make a difference.
Thunberg started ninth grade in 2018, which was also the year she decided to stop attending school and do something that could affect change instead.
Every day for three weeks she would go and sit outside of the Swedish parliament with a cardboard sign that read “skolstrejk för klimatet” or “school strike for climate.” She also started sharing posts that featured her strike on her Instagram account.
It Wasn't Easy
It's clear that we can’t all be Greta Thunberg, despite facing many opponents and naysayers, she still managed to make an incredible impact.
Before she started her solo strike, she tried to persuade other young people from her school to join her and take action, but they let her down as she said, “no one was interested.” Well, who needs ‘em?
Not So Solo Anymore
When Thunberg began, she went on her own and would hand out leaflets with a disturbing message that read, “I am doing this because you adults are cr****ing on my future.”
Soon enough, other students took notice and something shifted in their perception. In just a few weeks, more and more people started joining her until eventually thousands of people began striking with her.
Fridays For Future
When Thunberg began her strike in the summer of 2018, times were already desperate. Sweden experienced their hottest summer Sweden in 262 years. The heat was so severe it resulted in heat waves and several wildfires, a fact which made her strike all the more important.
With other students following her lead, similar protests began springing up, and it went on to become a phenomenon across the world, which began the climate strike movement, "Fridays for Future."
Anyone Can Make a Difference
Greta's campaign is also founded on the empowering message that anyone – even school students – can make a difference. Eventually, the movement rallied worldwide attention with more students joining the cause.
In just a few months, there were at least 270 cities across the globe that joined the "Fridays for Future" movement, which saw more than 20,000 students attending.
How to Make an Impact
Let's bear in mind the sheer impact one 15-year-old girl had with a hand-written sign! Not only were there thousands of students skipping school to strike but some of these protests gathered a million students each.
There was no turning back now, even adults were joining the protests and everyone was calling for stronger climate action from their governments and leaders.
Everything from books to posters and signs has captured the inspiring example of Thunberg’s determination and bold resolve to affect change.
Those closest to Thunberg have made it clear what they think about her cause. While her parents and teachers aren't happy about her missing school, they support her work and know that if she wasn't protesting, she wouldn't be happy.
The youth climate movement that ultimately came from Thunberg’s strike remains as committed as ever to showing the world that the planet needs saving and that young people are determined to build a better one.
Thunberg's stirring speeches are one of the reasons she's garnered an international following. Her collection of speeches was published in a book entitled "No One Is Too Small to Make a Difference," in 2019.
Show and Tell
What makes Greta so memorable is that her actions are consistent with her words. So instead of catching a flight across the Atlantic, she traveled with a wind-propelled sailing yacht that generates power using solar energy and hydropower.
It may have taken her two weeks longer to travel on a zero-carbon journey but when she arrived in New York, she was greeted with deafening applause.
Leo and Greta
Greta is not impressed by celebrities, nor does she seem to care about her own growing fame. But these very qualities have helped make her a global sensation, which is why people like Leonardo DiCaprio reach out to her.
Leo wrote a long caption for his Instagram post in which he called Greta "a leader of our time." He concluded his post by expressing what "an honor" it was to spend time with the Swedish activist, and that they had "made a commitment to support each another, in hopes of securing a brighter future for our planet."
Before the Strike
Just a few months before Greta began striking, the Swedish newspaper "Svenska Dagbladet" held an essay competition. She, no surprise, won the competition and it changed her life.
Her essay about climate change captured the attention of a group called Fossil Free Dalsland. While she was meeting with the group, someone suggested a climate strike, which ultimately motivated Greta to make it happen.
The Youngest Speaker
When Greta isn't skipping school to protest alongside her fellow activists, she's addressing dignitaries and world leaders. Yes, that's right, on the 4th of December 2018, Greta addressed the COP24 United Nations climate change summit.
At this time, she was just 15 years old, which makes her the youngest person to speak at an event organized by the United Nations.
Greta is seen as an inspiration to many, but who does she look to for inspiration? When asked in an interview who Greta looks up to, she said "Jane Goodall," of course.
For those who don't know, Jane Goodall was the first person to observe chimpanzees creating and using tools—a trait that, at that time, was thought to be distinctly human. She has since become a world-renowned primatologist.
In early 2019, Greta arrived in Davos, Switzerland after a 32-hour train ride to address the World Economic Forum. This is where things got interesting, many of the delegates arrived with private jets and it was witnessed by the entire world.
Greta addressed this with a strong message about hypocrites who have failed to take notice of the consequences of climate change and global warming.
Taking Names and Adding Signatures
Sometimes it takes an outspoken teenager to put things in perspective and that's what happened here, something clicked as people began taking notice and started listening to Greta.
More than 2oo academics and experts signed an open letter of support for Thunberg and her movement in February 2019, saying they were inspired by her work and her ever-growing supporters across the world.
"No Wonder They're Angry"
Even the Secretary-General of the United Nations, António Guterres, was quick to announce his endorsement of Thunberg's work and activism, along with the school strikes.
He went on to say, “Our generation has failed to respond properly to the dramatic challenge of climate change. This is deeply felt by young people. No wonder they are angry.” With such support, nothing could stop Greta.
Inspired By American Protests
Many may not have made the connection yet, but Thunberg’s school strike was initially inspired by the protests in America when high-school students all throughout the country refused to go back to school after terrible events that took place in schools.
These teen activists subsequently organized demonstrations and protests in which they advocated for their right to safety. It's amazing to see how teens all across the world can inspire each other.
The Greta Effect
Some experts in the media have coined the term the “Greta Thunberg effect.” The term is used to describe the rising number of young activists. Not only with climate strikes but also with other movements.
They also credit this phenomenon with the soaring sales and publication of books addressing climate change, which have doubled since August 2019. Who knew kids could have such a big affect on the world?
Nevermind All the Negativity
Pushback is nothing new to Thunberg, like many others who have tried to change the status quo, she's had to deal with it since day one. But, despite all the controversy surrounding her activism, she has also managed to garner support from some incredibly powerful people.
These include Britain’s secretary for the environment, Michael Gove as well as many wealthy American philanthropists. Through their support and sponsorship, Thunberg has closed massive donation deals.
The Swedish Railway Network recorded an 8% increase in train use between 2018 and 2019, showing that more Swedes are forgoing air travel and instead opting for trains - proving how the Greta Thunberg effect continues!
This phenomenon has even coined a name on social media platforms like Instagram and Twitter with its very own hashtag: “Flying Shame, ” or “Flygskam. ”
The Paris Agreement
Since we've already noted some of Thunberg's supporters, we can also name some of her enemies, and boy, she's got some big ones!
Thunberg and several other activists are filing lawsuits against Germany, Argentina, Brazil, Turkey, and even France for not meeting their emission reduction targets which were set by the Paris agreement. But should they really be mad at Greta if they did not stick to their contracts?
Person of the Year
For many activists, getting featured on the cover of a prestigious magazine is one way to further their cause. But, you have to admit that being named Time Magazine's "person of the year" is something incredible.
The magazine featured an article about her and how she's successfully created a shift in attitude across the globe, transforming millions of vague anxieties into a worldwide movement calling for urgent change.
Make the World Greta Again
Thunberg may not be the leader of any political party or in charge of any single group, but she has emerged as a trailblazer for her generation, a hero for youth activists across the globe fighting for change.
"The Vice" even made a short documentary film about her work so far titled "Make the World Greta Again." The best part about this is anyone can watch it on YouTube.
The Biggest Threat
Greta Thunberg is famous for preferring action over discussions and her brutal honesty with the global elite sure has given her a bad rep, but she doesn't mind at all.
In fact, Greta thought it was a compliment when Mohammed Barkindo, Secretary-General of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), referred to Greta as the "biggest threat" to the fossil fuel industry.
The award-winning artist, Jody Thomas, was so inspired by Greta's climate strike and subsequent protests that she honored the teenager with a beautiful street mural.
This work of art stands 15 meters tall on the side of the Tobacco Factory in Bristol, southwest England. But this isn't just your everyday artwork, this mural is so substantial that it can even be seen from way up in the air.
How Dare You?
Thunberg's most stirring speech is arguably the one we're all familiar with. You know, the one where she said, "How dare you..." at the United Nations Climate Summit in 2019.
While this line was the most widely discussed part of her speech, she also said, "I'm one of the lucky ones. People are suffering. People are dying. Entire ecosystems are collapsing. We are at the dawn of a mass extinction, and all you can talk about is profits and fairy tales of eternal economic growth."
Unite Behind the Science
Although Greta's commitment to the cause might be controversial at times and even irritating for some, she remains committed to cold-hard facts, with her signature slogan being, "unite behind the science."
Many people might not even like what she stands for but her persistent presence has come to represent the fury of youth worldwide. Greta has come to symbolize the agony, frustration, and for some, the hope that many young people feel toward their leaders and governments.
Greta's Musical Debut
Becoming the international symbol that she is, Greta Thunberg was invited by "The 1975" to make her musical debut on one of their singles. The 16-year-old restates her position as an environmental activist and the urgency we need to act on the climate crisis.
Thunberg has said about her opportunity: “I’m grateful to get my message out to a broad new audience in a new way...We need to get people in all branches of society involved.”
The Highest Honor
Ever since she's become an influential activist, her moral clarity has inspired other young people around the world. For this, Greta's been awarded one of the highest honors from Amnesty International for her “unique leadership and courage in standing up for human rights."
Upon receiving her award, Thunberg dedicated the prize to the millions of youth all around the world who have taken part in the climate strikes over the past year.
People began underestimating the force of angry kids like Greta, but she is not an angry kid for no reason.
While she's rebuking chief executives and heads of state, she's also having her speeches fact-checked by scientists - sometimes up to five of them - to make sure everything she says is factually accurate, as well as easy to understand.
Now That's a Lot of Awards
Thunberg has received more than 15 awards and similar prizes in the comparatively brief period of her career as an activist. After her speech at the UN Climate Action Summit, #Greta4NobelPrize went viral on the trending list on Twitter in several countries.
Sadly she didn't win, but she was one of the winners of the 2019 Right Livelihood Award, colloquially known as the “alternative Nobel Prize.”
Meeting with Obama
Thunberg is around 5 ft. tall, and she looked even smaller standing next to former US President Barack Obama when was in the US in 2019 and visited Washington DC while on her trip.
The two met and discussed her upcoming plans, to which Obama said to her "You and me, we're a team." The former US president has praised Thunberg as 'one of our planet's greatest advocates.'
What's Important Now
For Greta Thunberg, being an environmental activist isn’t just about supporting a cause, it’s the cause for everything she does in life. While speaking at TEDxStockholm, she surprised many when she said she wasn't planning on becoming a climate scientist, which people often expect of her.
But Greta has an important reason for this. As she said, all the science behind climate change is already done. According to her, the work we now have to do is combat ignorance and denial.
In 2018, Ingmar Rentzhog from the organization "We Don’t Have Time" used a picture of Greta along with her name without her knowledge to raise millions in funding.
Thunberg had a minor, unpaid role in the company as a youth advisor but she was nonetheless upset, and following this debacle, she terminated her advisory role with the organization. She made it clear that she doesn't want to be part of some money-making scheme and that the work she does is completely free.
Huge Honor for Tiny Greta
Despite having no access to traditional levers of influence, Greta Thunberg's contributions have not gone unnoticed. In a scarce feat, she has been honored by a newly discovered species of beetle named after her.
Scientists who discovered the species said they chose Greta because they were impressed by the Swedish teenager’s activism and outstanding contribution to raising awareness of environmental issues.
It's Just Not Enough
Thunberg's message has remained as clear and consistent as when she started, her message being, that climate change is a looming threat to society and that she holds the current generation of leaders and government officials responsible for our environmental crisis.
Greta advocates for policies that eliminate carbon emissions completely rather than just lowering them, saying that the current systems and strategies meant to reduce carbon emissions are insufficient.
All of Greta's Supporters
We know by now that Greta has a number of influential supporters, but there are even more people who've come out and publicly declared their support for the Swedish activist.
From celebrities like Billie Eilish to politicians like Hillary Clinton, Thunberg's admirers have grown and even garnered the support of Anne Hathaway, Malala Yousafzai, Chris Evans, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Prince Harry.
Where To Find Her?
Thunberg confronts the world’s problems as if she was a wise elder, but she’s still a kid. So while we were all thinking that Greta might have an official website, we can confirm that she doesn't.
However, just like any other teenager, she does have social media accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter where followers can keep up to date with her work.