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Since 2018, the name Greta Thunberg has remained at the forefront of climate change conversations.
But who is the little girl fighting to make an enormous impact on the world?
Born in Sweden in 2003 to parents Malena Ernman and Svante Thunberg, Greta Thunberg (pronounced Toon-berg) burst onto the political scene in August 2018 when she famously went on strike.
Following one of the hottest summers on record in Sweden, Thunberg demanded that the Swedish government reduce carbon emissions in accordance with the Paris Climate Agreement.
Thunberg spent weeks sitting in front of the Swedish parliament building every day during school hours, holding a sign that read: Skolstrejk för klimatet (school strike for the climate).
Once Thunberg caught the attention of the social media world, her plight and name exploded in popularity.
According to Earth Island Journal, Thunberg was only eight years old when she learned about climate change and quickly convinced her family and friends to start making eco-friendly adjustments to their lifestyles.
The publication also reported that Thunberg put a halt to her mother’s career as an international opera singer after she convinced Emman of how damaging air travel is for the environment.
Her passionate, no-nonsense plea for lawmakers to dedicate time and money to climate change has resonated with people across the world.
Very soon after the news of her protests went mainstream on social media, students across the world held their own climate strikes.
While Thunberg eventually went back to school, she still spent every Friday on “climate strike.”
She became a staple outside of the Swedish parliament buildings, calling the weekly event “Fridays for Future.”
She called on students across the world to join her and more than 17,000 students in 24 countries did.
Shortly after the Friday strikes began, Thunberg was invited to speak at climate change conferences, including the prestigious United Nations climate talks in Poland.
Since her first speech to the UN, Thunberg’s voice has continued to spread.
Powerfully taking down lawmakers and businessmen for “ruining her future,” Thunberg’s message is a harsh and pointed criticism of those who she believes have ignored the realities of climate change in favour of profits.
Thunberg is not afraid to go head-to-head with the adults of the world and make them confront the damage that she says they have done to the earth.
Despite being only 16, Thunberg has angered some powerful opponents.
The People’s Party of Canada leader, Maxime Bernier, mocked Thunberg on Twitter saying, “Either @GretaThunberg is a grownup in control of her life, in which case she can be criticized like anyone for the nonsense she spreads. Or she’s a poor little autistic girl, and then those who manipulate her are despicable child abusers. Pick one explanation and stick to it.”
Twitter users everywhere came to Thunberg’s defence, calling out Bernier for discrimination towards the autistic community.
In response, Thuberg called her Asperger’s her “superpower,” and told reporters from CBS This Morning, “I want to make sure I have done anything, everything in my power to stop this crisis from happening… I have Asperger’s, I’m on the autism spectrum, so I don’t really care about social codes that way.”
Most recently, following a powerful plea at the 2019 United Nations Climate Action Summit on Sept. 23, President Donald Trump took to Twitter to mock Thunberg’s passion.
After Thunberg spent two weeks travelling by eco-friendly yacht from Plymouth, U.K., to New York to attend the UN summit, Trump took aim.
Attaching a video clip of her speech in which Thunberg had tears in her eyes as she asked lawmakers, “How dare you?” Trump wrote; “She seems like a very happy young girl looking forward to a bright and wonderful future. So nice to see!”
This came after Thunberg stated to CBS reporters that she refused to meet with Trump as she said it would be a “waste of time.”
Trump has referred to climate change as a “hoax” and has denied its existence.
Thunberg did, however, meet with former president Barack Obama about the state of the earth’s climate.
After Trump’s tweet, Thunberg changed her Twitter bio to now ironically read, “A very happy young girl looking forward to a bright and wonderful future.”
In the past year, 16-year-old Thunberg has been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize, spoken in front of the United Nations, sailed across the ocean, won the Right Livelihood Award and taken on a president.
Thunberg is not the first one to plead passionately for the state of the environment, though she has made a name for herself.
Before Thunberg, there has been a long history of Indigenous protection of the environment.
As Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in 2015 at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, “Indigenous peoples have known for thousands of years how to care for our planet. The rest of us have a lot to learn and no time to waste.”
Of course, there have been many others, both Indigenous and not, before Thunberg to engage in similar fights for the earth.
While many have tried, few have gained the traction and the following that Thunberg has managed.
Whether Thunberg’s image has become recognizable around the world as a result of her age, her passion, her anger or her timing, we may never know.
Perhaps who Greta Thuberg is and why she is catching our attention is less important than what she is; a powerful teenage girl who is fighting for our lives.