By Casey Keenan
At the young age of 17, Greta Thunberg has already been named Time’s 2019 Person of the Year. She joins the accomplished list of fellow award winners such as Pope Francis, Barack Obama, Donald Trump, and Mark Zuckerberg, just to name a few. Greta has become known worldwide for her climate change activism and even spoke at the United Nations’ Climate Conference. Her activism didn’t start with the Climate Conference, but something on a smaller, yet still impactful, level: her school. One Friday she skipped school and held up a white sign that read “School Strike for Climate.” This evolved into missing school every Friday in protest and and soon after her movement spread on social media with the hashtag #FridaysforFuture. Most people would have taken an airplane from Sweden, Greta’s native country, to New York City, for the UN Climate Conference, by airplane. However, in an effort to reduce an environmental impact, Greta travelled by boat on a journey that took two weeks. In comparison, it would take 8 hours by plane. Greta sacrificed time and convenience in order to reduce her carbon footprint all for a cause she believes in.
Upon her arrival in New York, she was met with thousands of people willing to join in protests. This protest went global and some estimate that over 4 million people worldwide joined in on the global climate strike. In less than two years , Greta went from skipping school on Fridays (a practice she still continues) to staging protests from thousands of people to speaking in front of the UN. Climate Strike was named the 2019 word of the year by Collins Dictionary. Her impact and influence is undeniable. The speech she gave during the Climate Strike went viral on social media platforms with a famous line being “How dare you? You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words. And yet I’m one of the lucky ones. People are suffering. People are dying. Entire ecosystems are collapsing.” Her passionate speech, although only four minutes long, inspired many to take action and fueled the movement even more.
In today’s media culture, people have no problem sharing their opinions and negative comments on social media. Greta, and her speech, are not the exception. While her speech was praised by many, including celebrities, fellow climate change activists and regular everyday people, she also attracted a lot of negative attention, mostly from people who don’t believe in climate change; including the President of the United States, Donald Trump. He lashed out on her on Twitter claiming she had an anger problem and going as far as tweeting “Chill Greta Chill!’ . Greta often hits back at her “trolls.” In this case she changed her twitter bio to say “A teenager working on her anger management problem. Currently chilling and watching a good old fashion movie with a friend.” She doesn’t let the hate stop her from continuing to protest.
Not even at the legal age of 18, Greta has made an impact on the climate discussion. Her name is synonymous with climate change – it is hard to have a discussion about the topic without talking or thinking about her. In the United States, and her native country of Sweden, Greta would not even be allowed to vote for the leaders who will have the ability to shape the outcome of the planet. Yet she still tries. She speaks her mind and stands up for what she believes in. I think we could all learn a few lessons from Greta.
“We showed that we are united and that we, young people, are unstoppable.” – Greta Thunberg