Earth Day Hero: Greta Thurnberg

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Leonard Blachly-Preston, Staff Writer

She keeps fighting.

Greta Thunberg is the youngest person to be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, but that’s not all. She is the newest climate activist. At only sixteen years old, she has traveled all over the world, spoken to the United Nations, United States Congress, and she even made the declaration of rebellion for climate organization Extinction Rebellion. But, there are some lesser-known things about the inspiring, young Swedish activist.

Born January 3rd, 2003 in Stockholm, Sweden, Thunberg was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome a few years later at age 11. According to Thunberg herself, she only talks when necessary because of her diagnosis. “This case of Aspergers has not been bad for me. It has only helped me. Now, I only speak when it is really needed. And this is one of those times.”

Greta Thunberg has convinced many people to join her cause of the climate crisis, including her parents, but shockingly, she credits her Asperger’s diagnosis for her success and interest in helping solve the climate crisis. “I think that it was my case of Asperger’s that really allowed me to focus on the topic of climate change for so long. It allows me to be very focused on one specific thing, and that turned out to be climate change in my case,” she said during an interview. 

Greta Thunberg also learned about climate change in a very interesting way–she heard about it from her parents. What is even more peculiar, Thunberg took the topic she had heard about, and put her head to work. “I heard about this thing called climate change when I was about eight, from my parents, and I started researching it. There was a newspaper article talking about how sea levels are going to start to rise, and cities will be flooded. I researched it, and learned that it was true, and that was a turning point for me,” she stated. “I was also very shocked. I thought, ‘If the world is to be destroyed, flooded, and people will be killed, why isn’t it all over the news? If that is the case, why talk about the models who slumped, or the stock market?! People will die!’ That’s when I took the matter into my own hands.”

When asked what the hardest challenge was when she was fighting the climate crisis to be addressed, she answered to the reporter saying, “The hardest challenge for me was convincing my family to join my cause. My mother used to fly everywhere she went because she is an opera star in my home country [Sweden]. She flew because it made her look fancy, but after begging and pleading, and a lot of reasoning, and when I showed her my effort by doing my Fridays for Future strike, she finally took me seriously. That is how I convinced her to stop flying. Now, she is saving thousands of gallons of fossil fuels from being burned.” Thunberg said.

“My father and sister were a lot easier to convince, because they weren’t going to give up anything important to them. Becoming vegan and convincing my family to follow me was the next thing to do,” she said. 

After convincing her family to support her cause, she took it a step further, to show her entire family how dedicated to her cause she was. She became vegan. “I decided to prove to my family that I was going to stay dedicated to this cause, so I became vegan. I stopped eating meat, because when we kill animals, mainly cows and sheep, it releases methane, which is a terrible global warming gas, so I decided to stop contributing to global warming in this way too. When I explained this to my family, they actually ended up following suit, so that was an accidental way of convincing my family to join my cause,” she said

She was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize twice, in 2019 and 2020, for her incredible activism to end climate change and her work to inspire other young people to protest the climate crisis. Her Fridays for Future campaigns were, and still are a huge part of her activism role. She left school every Friday, and sat outside the capitol building in her town with a sign that read, Skolstrej f߳߳or Klimatik, translated into English as “School Strike for the Climate. “This inspired many other students to join Greta Thunberg on the streets on Fridays, which brought attention to their cause.

One of her more famous speeches was given to Montreal, Canada a week after the worldwide climate march on September 27, 2019. In this, she said;

Bonjour Montréal! Je suis très heureuse d’être ici au Canada au Québec! Ca me rappelle la maison. Merci!

It’s great to be in Canada. It’s a bit like coming home. I mean, you are so similar to Sweden, where I’m from.

You have moose and we have moose. You have cold winters and lots of snow and pine trees. And we have cold winters and lots of snow and pine trees.

You have the caribou and we have reindeer. You play ice hockey and we play ice hockey.

You have maple syrup and we have… well… forget about that one.

You are a nation that eligibly is a climate leader. And Sweden is also a nation that is eligibly a climate leader. And in both cases it sadly means absolutely nothing. Because in both cases it’s just empty words. And the politics needed is still nowhere in sight. So we are basically the same!

Last week well over 4 million people in over 170 countries striked for the climate.

We marched for a living planet and a safe future for everyone. We spoke the science and demanded that the people in power would listen to, and act on the science.

But our political leaders didn’t listen.

This week world leaders gathered in New York for the UN Climate Action Summit. They disappointed us once again with empty words and insufficient action. We told them to unite behind the science. But they didn’t listen.

So today we are millions around the world striking and marching again. And we will keep on doing it until they listen. If the people in power won’t take their responsibility, then we will. It shouldn’t be up to us, but somebody needs to do it.

They say we shouldn’t worry, that we should look forward to a bright future. But they forget that if they would have done their job, we wouldn’t need to worry. If they had started in time then this crisis would not be the crisis it is today. And we promise – once they start to do their job and take their responsibility, we will stop worrying and go back to school, go back to work.

And once again, we are not communicating our opinions or any political views. The climate and ecological crisis is beyond party politics. We are communicating the current best available science.

To some people – particularly those who in many ways have created this crisis – that science is far too uncomfortable to address. But we who will have to live with the consequences – and indeed those who are living with the climate and ecological crisis already – don’t have a choice. To stay below 1,5 degrees – and give us a chance to avoid of the risk of setting off irreversible chain reactions beyond human control – we must speak the truth and tell it like it is.

In the IPCCs SR1,5 report that came out last year it says on page 108 in chapter 2 that to have a 67% chance of staying below a 1,5 degrees of global temperature rise – the best odds given by the IPCC – the world had 420Gt of CO2 left to emit back on January 1st 2018.

Today that figure is already down to less than 350 Gt.

With today’s emissions levels, that remaining CO2 budget will be entirely gone within less than 8 and a half years.

And please note that these calculations do not include already locked in warming hidden by toxic air pollution, non linear tipping points, most feed back loops, or the aspect of equity, climate justice.

They are also relying on my generation sucking 100s of billions of tonnes of CO2 out of the air with technologies that barely exist.

And not once, not one single time, have I heard any politician, journalist or business leader even mention these numbers.

They say let children be children. We agree, let us be children. Do your part, communicate these kinds of numbers instead of leaving that responsibility to us. Then we can go back to ”being children”.

We are not in school today. We are not at work today. Because this is an emergency. And we will not be bystanders.

Some would say we are wasting lesson time, we say we are changing the world. So that when we are older we will be able to say we did everything we could. And we will never stop doing that. We will never stop fighting for the living planet and for our future.

We will do everything in our power to stop this crisis from getting worse. Even if that means skipping school or work. Because this is more important.

We have been told so many times that there’s no point in doing this, that we won’t have an impact anyway, that we can’t make a difference. I think we have proven that to be wrong by now.

Through history, the most important changes in society have come from the bottom up, from the grassroots. The numbers are still coming in – but it looks like well over 6,6 million people have joined the #weekforfuture, the strikes on this and last Friday. That is one of the biggest demonstrations in history. The people have spoken and we will continue to speak until our leaders listen. We are the change and change is coming.”

She was right. For the climate crisis, thousands of young people have taken the future into their own hands and left the countries leaders looking like fools. We need to rise up and fight for our future!