We have been saying and hearing this expression a lot, not just recently but in the last decade: Iba na ang panahon ngayon. And it is not a metaphor—downpours can cripple our daily activities, and typhoons like Ondoy and Yolanda cause massive destruction and death. We know that what we are seeing and experiencing is an effect of climate change happening around the globe. Yet, as one teen wonders so articulately, why are world leaders not panicking like their “house is on fire”?
Instead, the person who understands the climate crisis we are in and has managed to get people to listen is a teen named Greta Thunberg.
If you have checked social media these past few days, you might have seen countless videos and photos of massive strikes and protests led by teenagers worldwide to compel policymakers to take action against climate change. All of these movements were inspired by Greta, who, just over a year ago, started protesting all by herself. Here, 10 things to know about Greta Thunberg, the teen who has inspired the world to join her climate crisis protest.
1. Greta is 16 years old.
Greta was born on January 3, 2003, in Stockholm, Sweden, to Malena Ernman, a celebrated Swedish opera singer, and Svante Thunberg, an actor and author. According to Country Living, her father was named after Svante Arrhenius, a Nobel prize-winning scientist who was the first to discover that carbon dioxide emissions could contribute to the greenhouse effect.
2. Greta was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome four years ago.
Four years ago, Greta was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, a form of autism. According to the National Autistic Society, individuals with this condition “see, hear, and feel the world differently to other people.” They might also have some learning difficulties and issues with understanding and processing language.
For Greta, Asperger’s syndrome is not a hindrance to her passion for campaigning. Rather, she calls it her superpower, saying it helps her see the world in black and white and look at climate change as a real and pressing issue.
In an interview with BBC, Greta shared, “Being different is a gift. It makes me see things from outside the box. I don’t fall easily for lies, I can see through things. If I would’ve been like everyone else, I wouldn’t have started this school strike, for instance.”
Country Living reports that Greta has also been diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and selective mutism, an anxiety disorder characterized by the inability to speak in select social settings.
3. Greta first learned about climate change when she was just eight years old.
At eight years old, Greta was first exposed to the concept of climate change, and it affected her deeply. Those intense feelings caused her to fall into a depression when she was 11 years old—she stopped attending school and lost a lot of weight. She began talking to her parents about her concerns with the environment and what she could do to help.
4. Greta started protesting in 2018.
On Friday, August 20, 2018, Greta sat down outside the Swedish parliament with a handmade sign saying ‘Skolstrejk för Klimatet’ (‘School Strike for Climate’), marking the first of her weekly protests. She wanted politicians to take notice and action to stop global warming. She was inspired by the school walk-outs organized by teenagers in Florida, USA, to end gun violence.
At first, it was just Greta sitting outside the Swedish parliament by herself. Her parents were unsure about what she was doing and none of her peers wanted to join her. But when the press picked up on Greta’s protests and spread the word, thousands of other students all over the world began to join in on her #FridaysforFuture strikes.
5. Greta has inspired climate change strikes worldwide.
In March 2019, climate campaigners from different parts of the world worked to organize and coordinate the first-ever Global Strike for Climate, inspired by Greta. The strike was attended by more than 1.6 million people from 125 countries. On September 20, there were over 2,500 events scheduled in more than 160 countries, including the Philippines, reports Vox. According to the Global Climate Strike website, more events are being planned.
6. Greta has spoken to worldwide leaders and organizations.
Aside from her protests, Greta has also been gaining much attention for her fearless speeches that criticizes world leaders and organizations for not doing enough to put an end to global warming.
“Adults keep saying we owe it to the young people to give them hope. But I don’t want your hope. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act. I want you to act as if you would in a crisis.”
At the 2019 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Greta famously said, “Adults keep saying we owe it to the young people to give them hope. But I don’t want your hope. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act. I want you to act as if you would in a crisis. I want you to act as if the house was on fire because it is.”
Most recently, Greta gave another powerful and emotional speech at the United Nations Climate Summit in New York City, USA. One part of her speech went, “People are suffering. People are dying. Entire ecosystems are collapsing. We are at the beginning of mass extinction, and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you.”
Greta has also met with and been praised by notable leaders for her campaigning. Earlier this month, CNN reported that the teen met former U.S. president Barack Obama, during her visit to Washington, D.C. to promote environmental issues. Obama called Greta “one of our planet’s greatest advocates” on Twitter and also told her during their meeting, “You and me, we’re a team.” The two even shared a fist-bump!
7. Greta refuses to travel by plane.
Air travel has made traveling quicker and easier, but airplanes also emit high levels of carbon. For this reason, Greta refuses to travel by plane when invited to events outside her native country. To attend the World Economic Forum in Switzerland, she opted to take a 32-hour journey by train. To attend the UN Climate Summit in New York, she decided to sail across the Atlantic Ocean on a zero-emissions yacht for 15 days.
8. Greta is currently taking a year off from school.
CNN says that Greta is taking a sabbatical year from her studies to focus on attending conferences and meetings with policymakers around the world. According to Time, Greta’s trip to North America includes visits to Canada, Mexico, and Chile.
9. Greta has been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.
In March this year, The Guardian reported that Greta had been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by three Norwegian parliament members. One of them, Freddy Andre Ovstegard, said, “We have proposed Greta Thunberg because if we do nothing to halt climate change, it will be the cause of wars, conflict, and refugees. Greta Thunberg launched a mass movement, which I see as a major contribution to peace.”
10. Greta has amassed a large social media following.
Greta also uses her social media accounts to encourage people, young and old, around the world to join the fight against climate change. To date, she has 1.8 million followers on Twitter and 4.3 million followers on Instagram.