Updated: Apr 1, 2020
Note: this article was originally published as part of our "Youths of the Year" roundup. Click here to read the article in full.
16-year-old Greta Thunberg has become one of the most prominent young people in the world through her environmental activism. Since deciding to forego attending school in favour of standing outside the Swedish Riksdag, the country’s Parliament, in mid-2018, to pressure the government into honouring its commitments under the Paris Climate Change Accords, Thunberg has since inspired a massive #FridaysforFuture movement that spread like wildfire this year. It went from just herself standing alone outside the Riksdag to millions of students participating in thousands of strikes across hundreds of countries on several Fridays throughout the year. In September’s strikes, four million attended, the largest climate strike ever. Strikes in March and November also attracted well over a million.
Thunberg has been suddenly thrust into the spotlight, accumulating millions of followers on her various social media platforms, and has also had to deal with conspiracy theories spread by right-wing trolls and even more serious journalists like Tiana Lowe of the Washington Examiner and the Daily Wire’s Matt Walsh, who claim, with no factual evidence, that Thunberg is suffering from “child abuse", in attempts to discredit her and the youth environmentalist movement. It is something we have come to expect from the mainstream media in regards to their portrayal of prominent youth figures.
On a more uplifting note, Greta’s speech at the UN Climate Summit was fiery, moving, and eloquent, in which she declared world leaders have “stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words”, adding that she “shouldn't be up here... I should be back at school on the other side of the ocean… yet you all come to us young people for hope. How dare you!”. Those words spread across the globe, filling newspapers, and will linger in the minds of the public for years to come.