Who is Greta Thunberg, how old is she and what did she do?

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  • Who is Greta Thunberg? The young climate activist has made headlines over the last three years for everything from skipping school to going head to head with the former President of the United States on Twitter. 

    But most recently, all eyes have been on Greta Thunberg as she put out her own BBC documentary called ‘A Year to Change the World’. Along with outlining her own experiences of the last few years, the activist met with legendary environmentalist Sir David Attenborough – an experience she called ‘indescribable’. 

    Following this meeting, more people than ever before are curious to know who Greta Thunberg is and what she’s up to now.

    Who is Greta Thunberg?

    Greta Thunberg is a Swedish environmental activist. Climate change is among the biggest concerns for children at the moment and Greta became famous for challenging world leaders on their climate change action. 

    What started as a one-person protest outside the Swedish parliament, following a summer of wildfires and sky high temperatures in her home country, quickly became a worldwide event that influenced millions of adults and young people alike.

    Her inspirational messages and bravery in directly calling out the ineffectiveness of world leaders in battling climate change has earned her multiple awards and nominations. Greta got a spot on Time magazine’s 100 most influential people, the Forbes list of The World’s 100 Most Powerful Women and three nominations for the Nobel Peace Prize.

    A mural in Dublin of Greta Thunberg, who is pictured saying 'the world is waking up and change is coming'

    Credit: Getty 

    Greta’s stance on climate change comes from the idea that it is young people who will suffer the most from governmental inaction. She says that her generation may not have a future because “that future was sold so that a small number of people could make unimaginable amounts of money.” 

    She also makes the point that people living in the southern parts of the world are suffering now from climate change and will continue to do so in the future. Speaking in 2019 at a conference in Madrid, she said, “We talk about our future, they talk about their present.”

    How old is Greta Thunberg?

    Greta Thunberg is 18 years old. Her birthday is on January 3 and she was born in 2003. 

    While Greta is now an adult, her activism began when she was just 15 as she started to hold protests against climate change outside of the Swedish Parliament. 

    Greta Thunberg, who is wearing a face mask in the picture

    Credit: Getty

    How did Greta Thunberg become famous and what did she do?

    Greta Thunberg first became famous in 2018 when skipped school in a strike against climate change. In a now-famous photo, Greta can be seen holding a sign that says ‘School Strike for Climate’ in Swedish. 

    Due to her young age, her directness in pointing out the issues and ineffectiveness of world leaders in dealing with them and her passion for creating change, Greta quickly became a global news story. She struck a chord with millions of adults and young people alike, who soon led their own climate strikes outside parliaments in dozens of countries around the world. 

    Following this, Greta was invited to speak at the 2018 United Nations Climate Change Conference and her speech went viral. She accused world leaders of not being “mature enough” to handle the situation and “tell it like it is”. Among other appearances at conferences, in parliaments and at protests around the world, she also spoke at the 2019 World Economic Forum, where she said her famous quote – “Our house is on fire”. 

    Greta Thunberg is also famous because of her interactions with celebrities, world leaders and other activists. 

    But some interactions haven’t been so positive. One famous jab came from the former President of the United States, Donald Trump, when he was still in office. He mocked the then-teen on Twitter last year, following an address to world leaders where she said “people are dying, entire ecosystems are collapsing. We are in the beginning of a mass extinction”. 

    Donald Trump wrote on Twitter, “She seems like a very happy young girl looking forward to a bright and wonderful future. So nice to see!”. 

    He followed up with another Tweet after Greta was named Time magazine’s Person of the Year 2019, an award for which he was also nominated for. The former President tweeted, “Greta must work on her Anger Management problem, then go to a good old fashioned movie with a friend! Chill Greta, Chill!”. 

    Greta, who also has Asperger’s syndrome, OCD and selective mutism, has always seemed to disregard these comments. In her acceptance speech for the Time magazine award, she said, “It’s quite hilarious when the only thing people can do is mock you, or talk about your appearance or personality, as it means they have no argument or nothing else to say.”

    What is she doing now?

    Greta Thunberg’s documentary, ‘A Year to Change the World’, aired on April 12 2021 on BBC One. Along with a discussion with wildlife expert David Attenborough, the activist is seen dealing with climate change deniers reacting to her protesting. She also travels to areas which have been seriously affected by climate change, including areas of California hit by the wildfires. 

    While Greta Thunberg’s sabbatical year from school ended in August 2020, as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, she’s still been keeping busy. Speaking to the BBC, she said, “You can go outside and do things of course. But still, I mean, you try to stay inside as much as possible.” 

    Sweden, where Greta lives with her family, did not have a compulsory lockdown but people still tried to limit social contact where possible. Greta used her time at home over lockdown to catch up on school work.

    “I thought, I’m just home anyway, so I might as well just jump in the class and join the class I was about to attend and just do that in my free time, just as a bonus.” 

    In the video, she also said that she had been following the Black Lives Matter movement, which reached a pinnacle point last year after the death of George Floyd in the US sparked a series of protests around the world. 

    “It is always the fight for justice and it feels like we have passed some kind of social tipping point, where people are starting to realise that we cannot keep looking away from these things, we cannot keep sweeping these things under the carpet, these injustices.” 

    Most recently, Greta has commented on the distribution of vaccines around the world. She urged governments and those developing the vaccines to “step up their game” in fighting vaccine inequality after those in richer countries have secured most vaccine doses and poorer countries have largely gone without them. 

    Greta Thunberg facts for kids

    • Greta Thunberg was only 15 years old when she went on strike outside the Swedish Parliament. 
    • She calls her Asperger’s syndrome, which affects the way people interact socially, her ‘superpower’. She says it helps her see the world in black and white. 
    • Greta inspired #FridaysforFuture strikes all around the world, where teenagers skipped school on a Friday to protest against climate change. 
    • She’s been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize three times.
    • Greta has said that Rosa Parks, the civil right activist who sparked a movement in the 1950s in the US, is one of her biggest inspirations.  
    • She travelled from Plymouth in the UK to New York in the US via wind and solar-powered boat for a conference. The journey took 15 days in total!

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    From a young age, Greta has followed a vegan diet and refused to travel by plane due to the emission of gases that contribute to climate change.

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