GRETA THUNBERG: Profile Series


"People are suffering, people are dying, entire ecosystems are collapsing, we are in the beginning of a mass extinction and all you can talk about is money and the fairy tale of endless economic growth. How dare you?" - Greta Thunberg at the 2019 UN Climate Action Summit


Greta Tintin Eleonora Ernman Thunberg is an 18-year-old Swedish environmentalist who has taken it upon herself to make the world’s climate crisis her life’s mission. The critical turning point for Thunberg occurred during a class lecture about global warming when she was only 8 years old, consequently sending her into an inconsolable depression during which she stopped eating and speaking. Her parents stayed home from work to nurse her back to health and convince her to return to real life,ᶦ but the hopelessness she felt in regard to the pressing issue of climate change and the world’s indifference to tackling it in meaningful ways left her depressed. During this period of being shut in, Thunberg devoted hours to studying climate change and policies and this led to her successfully convincing her parents that this was a worthy cause. Now a household name, Greta’s efforts began in her own household where she successfully encouraged her parents to reduce their carbon footprint by cutting meat consumption, growing their own vegetables and swearing off commercial flights. Several years later, Greta won a climate change essay competition in a local newspaper at 15 years old.ᶦᶦ Within a few months, she began skipping school on Fridays to protests outside the Swedish parliament building holding a “School Strike for Climate” sign and urging others to follow her lead.ᶦᶦᶦ Every day, more students and advocates joined her and the protest went viral, with subsequent strikes being held in Belgium, Canada, the US, the UK, Finland, Denmark, France, and the Netherlands.ᶦᵛ On the whole, Thunberg missed all of her schooling in 2019 and ‘Fridays for Future’ garnered support from 20,000 students around the world.

Since the initial 2018 protests, Thunberg was invited to speak at numerous climate change events such as the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland and the European Parliament.ᵛ Thunberg also has Asperger’s Syndrome, “which means she doesn’t operate on the same emotional register as many of the people she meets. She dislikes crowds; ignores small talk; and speaks in direct, uncomplicated sentences. She cannot be flattered or distracted. She is not impressed by other people’s celebrity, nor does she seem to have interest in her own growing fame”.ᵛᶦ A common characteristic of Asperger’s Syndrome is the development of a mental fixation on an idea, which for Greta became climate change.


Today, Greta’s impact is summed up by the viral catch-term ‘the Greta effect’, which has been used to describe the influence she has on global youths, spurring climate groups with initiatives similar to her original ‘Striking for Change Movement’ to follow in her footsteps. Thunberg’s goal is simple: to persuade politicians and large corporate powers to reduce their carbon emissions and keep the global temperate rise below 1.5ºC. Between 2019-2020, over 60 countries have promised to eliminate their carbon footprints by 2050, and though this may not all be attributable to Greta Thunberg, she certainly had a part to play. ᵛᶦᶦ The public reception has been wildly supportive, although some influential political figures have taken opposing views such as Donald Trump who criticised her “anger management problem” and Russian President Vladimir Putin who called her a “poorly informed teenager”.ᵛᶦᶦᶦ Largely, the verbal attacks on Thunberg target her Asperger’s Syndrome or her young age, which she is happy to dismiss as an indication that her efforts are clearly working and getting under the skins of the right people.


As it stands, Thunberg is forging a path as an eco-hero, opting for travel in the Malizia II “zero carbon yacht” rather than flying and delivering straight-forward speeches in a tone of urgency rather than acting as a beacon of hope and empty promises.ᶦˣ Greta Thunberg is the voice of the next generation, the generation that had climate change thrust upon them and live under the shrouding reality of what the future will look like if nothing is done.



ᶦ Charlotte Alter, Suyin Haynes and Justin Worland, ‘Person of the Year 2019- Greta Thunberg’ The Times (London, December 2019) < https://time.com/person-of-the-year-2019-greta-thunberg/>

ᶦᶦ BBC News, ‘Greta Thunberg: Who is she and what does she want’ BBC News (London, 28 February 2020) < https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-49918719>

ᶦᶦᶦ BBC News, ‘Greta Thunberg: Who is she and what does she want’ BBC News (London, 28 February 2020) < https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-49918719>

ᶦᵛ Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica, ‘Greta Thunberg, Swedish Activist’ Encyclopaedia Britannica (2001) < https://www.britannica.com/biography/Greta-Thunberg>

ᵛ Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica, ‘Greta Thunberg, Swedish Activist’ Encyclopaedia Britannica (2001) < https://www.britannica.com/biography/Greta-Thunberg>

ᵛᶦ Charlotte Alter, Suyin Haynes and Justin Worland, ‘Person of the Year 2019- Greta Thunberg’ The Times (London, December 2019) < https://time.com/person-of-the-year-2019-greta-thunberg/>

ᵛᶦᶦ Charlotte Alter, Suyin Haynes and Justin Worland, ‘Person of the Year 2019- Greta Thunberg’ The Times (London, December 2019) < https://time.com/person-of-the-year-2019-greta-thunberg/>

ᵛᶦᶦᶦ BBC News, ‘Greta Thunberg: Who is she and what does she want’ BBC News (London, 28 February 2020) < https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-49918719>

ᶦˣ Tariq Tahir, ‘GRETA GOOD: Who is Greta Thunberg and what’s her net worth?’ The Sun (London, 19 April 2021) < https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/8918369/greta-thunberg-climate-change-activist/>

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