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Who is Greta Thunberg – and what she represents

by Ace Damon
Who is Greta Thunberg - and what she represents

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(Micah Garen / Getty Images)

Last Monday (23), Brazil was targeted by Swedish activist Greta Thunberg. The country, along with four other nations (France, Germany, Argentina and Turkey), was accused of not doing enough to combat global warming.

Greta filed a formal complaint with the United Nations (UN) – more specifically, the Committee on the Rights of the Child. The complaint, jointly with 15 other young activists (ages 8-17), calls on countries to put in place measures to protect children from the effects of the climate crisis.

This is not the 16-year-old's first action before the UN. In recent months, Greta has become one of the leading voices on climate issues by urging authorities to fight global warming. The student drew attention by gaining captive place at global climate assemblies and meetings – and especially by giving sharp speeches to international leaders.

Understand how the young woman's combative stance, her habit of skipping class on Fridays, and a sailboat trip across the Atlantic have ignited climate change discussions around the world.

How Greta's Activism Started

Born in Stockholm, Sweden's capital city, Greta says she heard about climate change and global warming for the first time at age eight during elementary school. In interview with BBC, the girl says that the subject shook her so much that, at 11, went into deep depression, even leaving to go to school.

His kick-off as a climate activist came in August 2018. Greta, then 15, started missing school to protest every day in front of the Swedish Parliament. The idea was to maintain the strike until early September, when the country's general elections would be held.

The girl gained company in the early days of protest, even under criticism that she should not drop out of class to defend her claims. To The Guardian newspaper, Greta said who, while on the street, kept reading books, especially about the weather. And took the opportunity to poke the government: “What am I going to learn at school? The facts don't matter anymore. If politicians are not listening to scientists, then why should I learn? ”

Years earlier, Greta was diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome, an autistic spectrum disorder that causes a person to experience a range of symptoms, such as difficulty interacting and communicating, and other behavioral problems. The girl faces the disease naturally. “It makes me different, and that's even a gift. I can see beyond the obvious, ”he told the BBC.

According to the scientific literature, a characteristic of people with Asperger is their avid interest in knowing all about specific things – which may explain Greta's obsession with the climate crisis and her devotion to the cause. "My diagnosis definitely helped me stay focused," she told the channel. CNN.

The young woman's activism would have impacted even the career of her mother, opera singer Malena Ernman. She claimed to have given up international career due to climate impacts from aircraft – the same reason Greta boarded a sailboat to reach UN climate conferences in New York a few weeks ago.

The Atlantic Ocean Crossing

During the Climate Summit at UN headquarters in New York, Greta spoke to leaders from 60 countries and blamed them for doing nothing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The video went viral on Internet.

To reach the city without increasing its own carbon footprint, the Swedish woman got support for a bold project: to cross the Atlantic Ocean in a sailboat. The vessel was wind-powered and 100% sustainable, with solar panels and turbines that generated power from the movement of water.

The mission took place on August 14 at Plymouth Harbor, England, and ended in New York on August 28. Greta was greeted by dozens of journalists and supporters of the movement, as well as an entourage of 17 small boats – each carrying a message representing the Sustainable Development Goals. proposed by the UN.

What is the repercussion of the movement

Greta's protests started the “School Strike for Climate” movement: students took to the streets in more than 500 cities worldwide against current climate policies. On March 15, 2019, the marches totaled 1.5 million people; on September 20, there were more than 4 million.

After the initial act in the Swedish Parliament, Greta continued to miss school every Friday – an action that spread and sparked the #FridaysforFuture campaign (“Fridays for the Future”).

Greta has traveled the world to attend weather events and assemblies. In December 2018, the activist spoke at COP24, the UN meeting on climate change that took place in Poland, where criticized the attitudes of global leaders on the topic.

In January of this year, at the Davos Economic Forum in Switzerland, she adopted her usual incisive stance, starting his text with the words "Our house is on fire" and ending with "I want you to panic and feel what I feel every day."

What are the controversies of your speech

Despite the growing notoriety, the activist's stance has also been criticized. Key attack points question the aggressiveness of Greta's speeches – and the size of their effectiveness.

"Thunberg believes that people should act, not argue," said Christopher Caldwell, New York Times columnist. The article points out that despite Greta's efforts, it must be borne in mind that solutions on a global scale cannot be done quickly. It should be considered that an entire society is built on current habits of production and emission of gases harmful to the environment. A new carbon policy, for example, would have immediate implications in several areas, such as transportation, food, health, among others.

The activist calls for immediate action in Sweden, which recently made the promise 100% carbon free by 2045 – one of the most ambitious of the world. For Greta, this is still not enough: “Sweden is not that green paradise it claims to be.”

In addition, Greta's trip to New York also sparked debate. According to a spokesman for one of the captains of the ship Greta used on the Atlantic crossing, Boris Herrmann, several people would fly to the US to bring the boat back. Herrmann himself would return to Europe by plane – which would contradict the premise of the crossing. According to other project participants, these flights would be compensated in some way by keeping the boat trip carbon neutral.

The “Greta Generation”

Despite criticism, Greta remains one of the main leaders of the movements against the climate crisis. At the Instagram, are 5.8 million followers; on Twitter, 2.2 million. That left even Donald Trump, whose statement about the activist was mocked by the student herself.

The Swedish woman became the symbol of youth resistance to climate change that El País newspaper called “Greta Generation“: Children, adolescents and young adults worried about the future of the planet – and who can be a hope that the most worrying predictions of global warming can be reversed.

At a time when adults relativize human action on climate change – such as Brazilian Foreign Minister Ernesto Araújo – to have a young woman with an incisive speech until it's not a bad idea.

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