In recent years, some traditional figures have dominated the news: Donald Trump, Boris Johnson, and Vladimir Putin. Who stands out among these old, white men? A determined young woman with braids, named Greta Thunberg.
In case you do not know the backstory behind this energizing figure on the global stage, here are nine little known facts about this climate change activist.
1. She’s from Sweden
Greta Thunberg lives in Sweden, although her activism takes her all over the world. She started protesting climate change by organizing school strikes in her native country.
These strikes soon blossomed into a worldwide movement.
2. She Calls Climate Change the Biggest Crisis in Human History
Greta was named Time magazine’s Person of the Year in 2019 because of her amazing influence on the climate change movement.
When she was eight years old she says she realized that climate change was going to destroy the planet, and she chose to do something about it.
Her fury at the adults failing to save the world from self-destruction has captured the attention of governments and media worldwide, as she insists that people pay attention to climate change. Greta is adamant that everyone starts making meaningful changes in order to save the world for future generations.
3. Greta Convinced Her Mother to Stop Flying
Greta’s mother was a famous opera singer who traveled all over to sing. When Greta became aware of the carbon footprint of flying, she begged her mother to stop.
Greta’s mom gave up her career to support her daughter’s mission to fight climate change. The entire family follows a lifestyle that is climate-friendly: for example, they are all vegan and they have an electric car.
4. She Inspires Millions of Kids to Skip School
Greta started protesting when she was 15 by not attending classes on Fridays in her native Stockholm, She was photographed with her Swedish sign in front of the country’s Parliament: her sign read “Skolstrejk för Klimatet” (which roughly translates to “School Strike for the Climate”).
The pictures went viral and now #FridaysForFuture is an international movement.
In September 2019, a worldwide climate protest engaged over 4 million people around the globe. New York City excused its 1.1 million students from attending school.
Local communities from New Delhi to San Francisco to Antarctica took place in the protest.
5. Greta’s Diagnosis with Asperger’s, OCD, Selective Mutism and ADHD
Not all superheroes look like Ironman.
Greta has been open about her Asperger’s diagnosis. Asperger’s is a form of high functioning autism characterized by difficulty with social interactions and nonverbal clues.
When Thunberg first learned about climate change almost a decade ago in 2001 (at the age of eight), she became depressed, stopped talking, stopping eating, and lost over 20 pounds in approximately two months. As a result of this behavior, she was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), selective mutism and ADHD.
Greta calls her Asperger’s her superpower.
Asperger’s also causes intense focus and persistence. These traits have obviously served Greta well in her mission to get people to take action on climate change.
When she first burst onto the global stage, Greta also discussed her diagnosis with selective mutism, describing it as meaning that she only speaks when she needs to. Greta declares that when she first learned about what was happening to the planet, she knew that this was her time to speak.
Greta’s blunt affect, another characteristic of Asperger’s, gives her message even more impact. She does not shirk from hard truths. She is not intimidated by the criticisms of the establishment.
While I don’t always like the labels associated with diagnoses, I am in great awe of Greta’s power to embrace these aspects of herself openly and publicly, as well as her ability to celebrate the strengths associated with her condition. Unquestionably, these elements are her personality are part of what makes her extraordinary.
(Speaking of which, if you’re new to my world, extraordinary is one of my all-time favorite words, because it literally means “extra ordinary” or “beyond ordinary.” Always remember to embrace your extraordinary self!)
6. She Admits to Struggling with Depression
As mentioned, when Greta was hit with the realization that climate change was going to directly affect her future, the realization triggered a deep depression where she stopped eating and talking.
People with Asperger’s are also especially susceptible to depression.
Like many heroes, Greta turned what could have been a negative into a positive. She took what others consider a disability and a liability and she turned it into positive action.
Many others are inspired by her openness about this condition. She provides a great example of how you can overcome challenges and make a difference in the world, even when others doubt you or think you are crazy.
7. Greta Thunberg Sailed Across the Atlantic
As her fame grew, more and more groups wanted to invite Greta to speak to their members. She was even invited by the United Nations in New York to address its members at its Climate Action Summit,
This was a great opportunity to get her message out to the whole world. However, Greta is opposed to flying because of air travel’s high carbon emissions. How could Greta get from Stockholm to New York while maintaining her fiercely held values?
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Luckily, a crew of a sailboat invited her to join them in a two-week-long journey across the ocean in an emission-free yacht that runs on wind, sun, and hydropower. Greta’s long ride gained even more media attention and influenced even more followers.
8. She Spars Online with President Trump
Part of Greta’s appeal is her fearless approach to speaking truth to power. This has made her many fans, but also some high powered enemies. President Trump, who was apparently furious when Greta was named Person of the Year by Time instead of him, called her angry and told her to chill.
Greta clapped back on Twitter. Part of her power is this fearlessness about what others say about her.
Now Greta’s high profile brings her to more places where her paths cross with the rich and powerful. At Davos in early 2020, again Trump referred to her negatively by disparaging “alarmists”. His Secretary of the Treasury implied she has no authority because she lacks an economic degree.
Greta replied: “It doesn’t take a college degree in economics to realize that our remaining 1,5° carbon budget and ongoing fossil fuel subsidies and investments don’t add up. So, either you tell us how to achieve this mitigation or explain to future generations and those already affected by the climate emergency why we should abandon our climate commitments.”
9. She Just Turned 19
All this power from a kid who just turned nineteen. Who says you can’t change the world?
Greta is an amazing example of an outsider who is achieving great things, rising above the haters and inspiring action on an important cause.
Greta Thunberg, An Unlikely Hero
People often do not expect a lot from those who do not fit into socially accepted traditions of how to act, look and think. Activists like Greta Thunberg show that you can and should shake things up, defy conventions, and follow your heart.