Animated artwork by @tollydollyposh 

(original photo credit @gretathunberg)

Goal 13: Climate Action


The Joan of Arc of climate change

By Hannah rochell
9 november 2019

Greta Thunberg is sometimes referred to as the Joan of Arc of Climate Change. And rightly so: this 17-year-old Swedish environmental activist has been fighting climate change with such urgency that she has set the precedent for how we as humans need to act if we are to save the planet that we call home. 

Only a matter of a few years ago, it’s unlikely that we would have even recognised Greta Thunberg if she walked past us in the street; now she’s been photographed with the most famous politicians in the world and appeared on the front cover of glossy magazines. Here is everything you need to know about her (so far…).

Greta Thunberg at a school climate strike

1. Greta's school strikes

Greta staged the first-ever climate school strike in August 2018. Inspired by a school class walk-out in Florida in protest of US gun laws, she felt it was the best way to get attention and raise awareness for the issue she felt so passionately about. She wasn’t mistaken. 

2. How she started a global movement

Because of the strike, Greta missed around three weeks of school until she eventually got the attention of the Swedish Parliament. This ultimately led to the start of a global movement.

3. Greta and Asperger's Syndrome

Greta has been diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome. Rather than viewing it as a hindrance, she recognises its advantages, such as her interest in reading climate studies, which in turn spurs on her activism.

Greta Thunberg on a yacht

4. Greta doesn't fly

Greta has visited many countries in the world but she refuses to fly. It took her 32 hours by train to get to Davos in Switzerland for the World Economic Forum. She also sailed in a zero-emission yacht for two weeks across the Atlantic to get to New York for the UN’s Climate Action Summit, and is more often picture on board a ship than on dry land as she travels the world to speak.

5. Greta is a vegan

As well as her views on travel, Greta’s environmentalism spreads to all aspects of her life, including being a vegan. She hasn't eaten meat since she was 12.

6. Greta's parents 

Greta’s parents also have impressive careers. Her Mum, Malena Ernman, is a Swedish opera singer. Her Dad, Svante Thunberg - an actor and author - is named after Svante Arrhenius, the Nobel prize-winning scientist who first calculated how CO2 could lead to the greenhouse effect.

Greta Thunberg wearing a mask

7. Greta's middle name

One of Greta’s middle names is Tintin (the other two are Eleanora and Ernman).

8. Fact checked by scientists

Greta has all of her speeches fact-checked by scientists - sometimes up to five of them - to make sure everything she says is factually accurate, as well as being easy to understand.

9. Magazine cover star

Greta was named as one of TIME Magazine's Most Influential Teens of 2018. She also appeared on the cover of the August 2019 issue of British GQ.

Greta Thunberg Time Magazine

10. 2019's Person of the Year

Following these accolades, Greta was named TIME Magazine’s Person Of The Year in December 2019. She is the first person born in the 21st Century to have been given the award, and also the youngest recipient.

11. Greta's awards

We’re certain awards will be coming Greta’s way thick and fast: she received the Amnesty International’s Ambassador of Conscience Award for 2019, and she was nominated by three Norwegian MPs for 2018’s Nobel Peace Prize.

12. Awards run in the family

Award winning runs in the family - Greta’s mother won the WWF Sweden Environmental Hero of the Year Award in 2017.

13. "How dare you!"

In September 2019, Greta’s speech to the UN Climate Action Summit was watched by millions all over the world. "This is all wrong. I shouldn’t be up here. I should be back in school on the other side of the ocean. Yet you all come to us young people for hope? How dare you! You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words,” she said.

Greta Thunberg giving a speech

14. The biggest climate rally in history

Also in September 2019, Greta led a climate rally in Montreal which is said to have been the biggest in the Canadian city’s history.

15. Greta and Ellen DeGeneres

As well as addressing huge crowds of people and politicians, Greta has appeared on TV. She was a guest on The Ellen Show in November 2019.

Greta Thunberg wearing a yellow mac

16. Greta's book

Greta’s collection of speeches ‘No One Is Too Small To Make A Difference’ was published in May 2019. All proceeds from book sales are donated to charity. We’re looking forward to the possibility of Volume II.

17. Greta's new documentary

2020 sees the release of a documentary about Greta, to be shown on the streaming platform Hulu. Read more about that here.

additional images: Shutterstock

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