To the heart of the problem. Thunberg does not rely on flashy appearances. She politely declined an environmental award by the Nordic Council. Climate action does not require awards but politicians who finally start to listen and to act. The fact that US President Donald Trump withdrew the country he helms from the Paris climate agreement as one of his first acts in office was reason enough for Thunberg to “not waste any time” with him during a visit to the United States in summer. Instead, she met with the likes of Hollywood star Leonardo DiCaprio and talk show host Ellen DeGeneres. After a personal encounter with the young activist, former US President Barack Obama called Thunberg “one of our planet’s greatest advocates.” Many would consider personal meetings like these ultimate accolades – for Greta, who was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome as a child, these meetings are an inconvenient if necessary means to an end, actions dedicated to realizing her vision.
“They seem to be more scared of me and of the protest of young people than of the actual problems.”
Symbol of a free world. The global media coverage ultimately overwhelmed not only the young, introverted girl, but also the public. “You love her or you hate her” is a phrase normally reserved for the likes of controversial politicians or provocative celebrities, but was heard in conjunction with Thunberg’s name with increasing frequency. The attention she received also drew a growing number of detractors who did not shy away from jokes, insults, and even serious threats. So far, the teen has taken all enmity in stride, apparently more surprised than concerned: “They seem more scared of me and of the protests than of the actual problems.” It is clear that Greta Thunberg has become a symbol of an open world, with all the positive and negative aspects such intense focus brings with it. We live in a world in which a young girl can confront and profoundly irritate the powerful elites, in a context where freedom of speech is unfortunately understood all too often as the freedom to justify hate-speech and aggressive policies. That said, it is a world in which we see that a single voice can rise on a tide of momentum to inspire a truly global movement and genuine change.