The Greta Effect

Veronica Salinas

Climate[ka1] activism among teens and young adults has recently become more visible, but only select few will make a notable impact. One of these few is 16-year-old Greta Thunberg, born in Stockholm, Sweden. She was just eight years old when she first heard of climate change, and now she has encouraged millions to fight for climate rights and is nominated for this year’s Nobel Peace Prize.

Her journey began in school. Greta’s teachers showed her images of plastic-filled oceans and extreme weather events, and she couldn’t get them out of her head.  She was eventually diagnosed with depression. She had stopped eating, talking, and even stopped attending school. In the Make the World Greta Againdocumentary by VICE, a Canadian digital media company, Thunberg explains, “I got out of that depression by thinking to myself, there is so much I can do.”

She began to realize the importance of lowering her carbon footprint and convinced her parents to adopt a vegan lifestyle as well as give up air travel, which meant her mother would give up her career as an international opera singer. However, her parents’ willingness gave her hope that she could change the rest of the world.

Thunberg found her inspiration from students in Parkland Florida when they created the well-known “March for Our Lives” strike. The student-led demonstration supporting the prevention of gun violence influenced her to begin a movement. Shebegan skipping school each Friday in August of 2018 to protest outside the Swedish Parliament, Riksdag. She held a sign saying “School Strike for Climate” which became a part of her weekly routine. At 15 years old she would sit outside of the Swedish building by herself, sometimes accompanied by friends.

She later gained recognition from several reporters, and people started to join. Just a few weeks after her 16th birthday, she attended the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting. There, she urged economic world leaders to act immediately and to “act as if our house is on fire.” Now, she has inspired millions to join the movement under the name “Fridays For Future” and is nominated for this year’s Nobel Peace Prize.

Her immediate rise to fame is motivational, yet it has come with a few critiques. Thunberg is known for her unapologetic speeches and sarcastic sense of humor; thus, some male critics have underestimated her lectures by calling her mean and spiteful words. She’s been described as a “Swedish mentally-ill child”, and “weirdo”. Thunberg responded on twitter saying haters “must simply feel so threatened by us.”

She claims her Asperger’s diagnosis, a developmental disorder, as a “superpower” and serves as a role model for those on the autism spectrum. According to The New York Times, she was “the invisible girl in the back who doesn’t say anything,” she said, “From one day to another, people listen to me. That’s a weird contrast. It’s hard.” Thunberg gave a Ted Talk back in November 2018 where she explained that her diagnosis meant she “only speaks when necessary” and that “now is one of those moments.”

Thunberg serves as an inspiration for teens wanting to make a difference. She remains hopeful that adults will soon listen to her remarks, and businesses will develop a plan to reduce greenhouse gases.

If you too are interested in helping but aren’t sure how, here are a few things you can do. Your vote matters. Before voting, do your research to ensure the candidate has an immediate and credible plan for climate action. Eat meat-free meals; research ways to make your diet more environmentally friendly. Save energy by unplugging electronic devices when they’re not in use and change to energy efficient light bulbs. Start the conversation. Speak with friends and family about the continuous environmental damage and responsibilities that come along with it.

The climate is changing, and so should we.

Image taken Anders Hellberg