1. She learnt of climate change at just 8 years old
At this point of time, Greta has been worrying about climate change for literally half her life. She first learnt of global warming at the age of 8 when she was being shown films about it at school. For the first time, Greta saw plastic in the ocean and starving polar bears – and those images never left her mind. The question of why adults couldn’t do anything to fix it also never did.
“I cried through all the movies. My classmates were concerned when they watched the film, but when it stopped, they started thinking about other things. I couldn’t do that. Those pictures were stuck in my head,” she shares.
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2. She was diagnosed with depression
What Greta learnt about climate change at the tender age of 8 stuck with her and became a significant factor of her depression, which she was diagnosed with three years later. It escalated to a point where she was unable to go to school and struggled with an eating disorder, leading her parents to stay home to take care of her.
Thankfully, this opened up the opportunity for her to talk to her parents about her worries – many of which revolved around the climate crisis and environment. “They just told me everything will be all right. That didn’t help, of course, but it was good to talk. And then I kept on going, talking about this all the time and showing my parents pictures, graphs and films, articles and reports.”
Eventually, it dawned on Greta that she wanted to be the one who would make a difference – and that became a guiding light for her own personal journey.
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3. She also has Asperger’s Syndrome, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and selective mutism
Calling it a ‘superpower’, Greta believes that her diagnosis of Asperger’s was what reinforced her headstrong attitude towards speaking about climate change. It may even be why she can be so clear-cut about her stance, saying that the ‘gift’ of her Asperger’s diagnosis helps her see things in “black and white”.
She explains in particular that the condition, which is on the autism spectrum, affects social interaction and nonverbal communication – which in turn has helped her develop her unique and effective way of putting her points across. Her selective mutism also only allows her to “speak when necessary”. This only shows how passionate she is about the cause!
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4. She single-handedly started a school strike
Greta’s parents weren’t on board with her activism at first. Just over a year ago, Greta held her first climate strike holding a sign that read “Skolstrejk för klimatet”, which translates to ‘School strike for the climate’. She was photographed sitting outside the Swedish Parliament alone.
If you’ve been keeping up with the news, you would know that on Sep 20, three days before the UN Climate Action Summit, Greta led the biggest strike against climate change with a turn-up of about four million globally. To connect the dots, this was the movement that evolved from Greta’s original climate strike in August 2018 – except this time, she’s joined by millions of others who skipped school to protest.
The entire movement termed ‘Fridays for Future’ strike every Friday to demand more aggressive action from governments and international communities to deal with the issue of climate change.
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5. She caused the Greta Effect
Greta’s impact not only extends to her age and older, but the ones younger too. According to data from Nielsen Book Research, the number and sales of children’s books on the climate crisis, global heating and natural world has boomed over the past year.
“I absolutely would say there has been a Greta Thunberg effect,” says Rachel Kellehar, head of nonfiction for Nosy Crow, a children’s publisher. “She has galvanised the appetite of young people for change, and that has galvanised our appetite, as publishers, for stories that empower our readers to make those changes.”
Greta has even made it to the cover of one of those books. Published by Nosy Crow, Earth Heroes tells the stories of 20 individual inventors and conservationists around the world, including Stella McCartney, Isabel Soares and Greta herself. It’s set out to publish by October before the Nobel Peace Prize winners are announced – for which Greta has been nominated for.
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6. She has already won multiple awards
Rumour has it that Greta’s Speech at the UN Climate Action Summit would lower the chances of her getting the Nobel Peace Prize, but she already has multiple awards tucked under her faux leather belt. The most recent ones include Amnesty International’s ‘Ambassadors of Conscience’ award and the Right Livelihood Award. Ambassadors of Conscience is the highest Amnesty award, and the Right Livelihood Award is considered ‘Sweden’s alternative Nobel Prize’.
Previous winners of the Right Livelihood Award include Edward Snowden, Wangari Maathai and Alan Rusbridger.
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7. She and 15 other youth activists filed a legal complaint against five countries
If you thought Greta was done after making her impassioned speech at the UN Climate Action Summit, you were wrong. With fifteen other youth activists between ages 8 to 17 at the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Greta filed a UN complaint against Argentina, Brazil, France, Germany and Turkey for not acting on the climate crisis after signing the 2015 Paris Agreement.
Their complaint was filed under the 1989 UN Convention on the Rights of the Child on the basis that the respective countries’ failure to meet the standards of the emissions goals violate their rights as children.
The five countries are the world’s biggest emitters of greenhouse gases.
8. Her actions are as loud as her words
Greta isn’t only talking about reducing carbon footprint, she’s making waves by sailing to the UN Climate Action Summit from Plymouth to New York. Demonstrating her belief in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, Greta really made a statement by with the yacht that’s fitted with solar panels and underwater turbines. The voyage was no cruise ship sail – Greta had to prepare for the two-week long trip by test sailing for several hours. And the worst part? She had to make do with a blue bucket because there is no toilet.
It would seem that she really is doing whatever she can to make every small act count. Along the way, Greta also convinced both her parents to adopt veganism – and her mother, who’s an opera singer, to stop performing internationally because of air travel. We would say that’s quite a feat for parents who didn’t support her activism!
9. She's one brave soul
As if Greta hasn’t been on the Internet enough, she also made it to social media for a meme-worthy clip of her shooting daggers at Donald Trump. The US President who didn’t believe in climate change was on the receiving end of what was dubbed Greta Thunberg’s ‘death stare’ as he walked past her at the UN.
Probably taking offence, Trump thought it would be a good idea to shade Greta by calling her a “very happy young girl looking forward to a bright and wonderful future” on Twitter. And Greta reacted in the best way possible – not by denying, shaming or maybe even ignoring – but by letting the bully have none of it as she made his description of her as her Twitter bio.