Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg drew attention of people across the world after her powerful speech at the United Nations on climate change on September 23 and winning Right Livelihood Award, also known as the 'Alternative Noble Prize'. While many lauded her for raising awareness and holding world leaders accountable for climate change, a section called her speech as full of ‘drama and rhetoric’. Thunberg, a 16-year old student from Stockholm, first made headlines when she sat outside the Swedish Parliament and called it ‘School strike for the climate’ in Swedish. She skipped the school for it where attendance is compulsory for a student her age.
In May 2018, before her ‘school strike’, Thunberg won an essay competition on climate change organised by a Swedish newspaper. Thereafter she decided to make an effort to hold the government accountable for it and demand action against it. In the run-up to 2018 United Nations Climate Change Conference held in Katowice, Poland, many students organised protests and strikes where Thunberg became the centre of the campaign. Thunberg wrote a Facebook post in February this year where she talked about the idea of school strike.
“I like the idea of a school strike. So I developed that idea and tried to get the other young people to join me, but no one was really interested. So I went on planning the school strike all by myself,” she wrote.
Born to opera singer Malena Ernman and actor Svante Thunberg, Greta was eight years old when she heard about the climate change for the first time and wondered why so little was being done about it. According to the book ‘Scenes from the Heart’, written by Greta’s mother Malena Ernman, Thunberg urged her parents to change the lifestyle to lower the carbon emissions. Her parents eventually responded to it, which meant becoming vegan and giving up flying. These choices came at a cost and Ernman had to give up her international career as an opera singer.
I honestly don’t understand why adults would choose to spend their time mocking and threatening teenagers and children for promoting science, when they could do something good instead. I guess they must simply feel so threatened by us. ->— Greta Thunberg (@GretaThunberg) September 25, 2019
On September 26, Thunberg took to social media to address the criticism she got after the speech at the UN. “Here we go again... As you may have noticed, the haters are as active as ever - going after me, my looks, my clothes, my behaviour and my differences,” she wrote. “They come up with every thinkable lie and conspiracy theory. It seems they will cross every possible line to avert the focus, since they are so desperate not to talk about the climate and ecological crisis,” she added. Thunberg, who was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome, wrote, “Being different is not an illness and the current, best available science is not opinions - it’s facts.” She has also changed her Twitter bio after she was targeted for having Asperger's syndrome. It reads, “16-year-old climate and environmental activist with Asperger’s Join the global climate strikes on September 27th!”