Greta Thunberg is a Swedish climate activist.
In Poland last week at the COP24 climate talks, Thunberg addressed the Secretary-General of the United Nations and was seated on a World Bank panel. She received a standing ovation for one of her talks.
She’s behind a global strike Thursday created to call attention to climate change.
She is a rebel. With a cause.
Thunberg is 15 and autistic. And, the newest, youngest and most powerful voice on the global stage demanding the world address a changing climate.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Thunberg Created the ‘School Strike for the Climate’ Movement That’s Spread Globally
In August of 2018, the 9th-grade student said she would not go to school until the Swedish general election which was held, slated for Sept. 9. She said she made up her mind to do something following the unparalleled heat wave and summer fires her country experienced.
Thunberg took her strike to the Swedish parliament in Stockholm; the Skolstrejk för Klimatet, or School Strike for the Climate. Her demand was that her country reduce carbon emissions as agreed upon in the Paris climate agreement. And so the pig-tailed girl sat outside the Swedish parliament every Friday during school hours in protest. She did not relent.
Thunberg’s School Strike for Climate was a movement that caught on in nations nearby and across the planet.
In Australia in particular tens of thousands of kids joined the protest. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s admonition that, “what we want is more learning in schools and less activism” was ignored.
Thunberg had started something bigger than she.
2. Thunberg Addressed the UN & Her Message Went Viral
Thunberg addressed the COP24 United Nations climate change summit on Dec. 4. She said, “What I hope we achieve at this conference is that we realize that we are facing an existential threat. This is the biggest crisis humanity has ever faced. First, we have to realize this and then as fast as possible do something to stop the emissions and try to save what we can save.”
A few days later, she made her point and mission crystal clear. She was demanding action, not words. And she called for bravery and for adults to well, act like adults.
“You only speak of green eternal economic growth because you are too scared of being unpopular. You only talk about moving forward with the same bad ideas that got us into this mess, even when the only sensible thing to do is pull the emergency brake. You are not mature enough to tell it like it is. Even that burden you leave to us children.”
Thunberg schooled the adults in the room.
”So we have not come here to beg the world leaders to care for our future. They have ignored us in the past and they will ignore us again. We have come here to let them know that change is coming whether they like it or not.”
3. Thunberg Adeptly Uses Social Media to Spread Her Message. She’s the Inspiration Behind a Global Strike for the Climate on Thursday, Dec. 14
Thunberg has called for a worldwide strike to demand action on climate change.
“Climate leaders don’t just talk. They act. Join us!! Global climate strike 14 December. Spread the word!!”
She was joined by climate scientists in her call to action.
Thunberg was part of the Rise for Climate demonstration outside the European Parliament in Brussels and is part of the Declaration of Rebellion organized by Extinction Rebellion in London.
She says the only way to get anything done is through rebellion and civil disobedience.
4. Her Family Includes Actors, Artists & Scientists. Her Ancestor Discovered the Greenhouse Effect of Carbon Dioxide
Thunberg’s mother is Swedish opera singer Malena Ernman. Her father is Swedish actor Svante Thunberg and her grandfather is Swedish actor and director Olof Thunberg.
Her ancestor on her father’s side is the Nobel Prize winner, Svante Arrhenius. Arrhenius was a Swedish physicist and chemist who received the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1903. He is known for myriad scientific contributions but it was his discovery that increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide increase the Earth’s surface temperature. That finding led to the conclusion that human-made carbon dioxide emissions cause global warming.
5. Thunberg, Who Has Asperger’s Syndrome, Was Named One of Time Magazine’s Most Influential Teens of 2018
Her mother published a book, “Scener ur Hjärtat” (which translates to Scenes of the Heart), in which she described her family’s “crisis” of her daughter’s Greta and Beata’s illnesses that includes autism and other neuropsychiatric diagnoses, and their concern about climate awareness, the health of the planet, and living a more sustainable life.
Greta says on her Twitter profile she has Aspergers and told a journalist from The New Yorker that she sees “the world a bit different, from another perspective. I have a special interest. It’s very common that people on the autism spectrum have a special interest.”
Thunberg was named to Time magazine’s 25 most influential people under age 20.
The at once shy and assertive teen told Time, “I thought that nothing is happening and no one is doing anything — it is my moral duty to do what I can,” she tells TIME of her mission. “I cannot vote, so this is a way that I can make my voice heard.”