When 15-year-old Greta Thunberg started a protest for the climate outside the Swedish Parliament in August 2018, little did she know that she'll become an icon for the entire world.
It wasn't easy for her to do what she did. To begin with, there was no support. Her parents wanted her to go to school and her friends declined to join in the protest.
A 15-year-old girl sitting in front of the Parliament with a hand-painted banner didn't appeal much to anyone.
But today, the picture has become symbolic of a larger purpose. The whole world is talking about this one teenage girl and her determination to bring about much-needed change.
Greta was never like other kids. Born to Malena Ernman, an opera singer and Svante Thunberg, an actor and author, she was exceptionally bright since childhood.
She was just 8 when she first learned about climate change. And the way in which climate change is affecting all of us, she could not stop thinking about it.
In an interview with Wired, she said:
"I overthink. Some people can just let things go, but I can't, especially if there's something that worries me or makes me sad."
This was one of the major reasons why she went into depression a few years later.
"I kept thinking about it, and I just wondered if I am going to have a future. And I kept that to myself because I’m not very much of a talker, and that wasn’t healthy. I became very depressed and stopped going to school."
Ever since, she has been fighting for the cause, never giving up and even persuading her parents to become a part of it. As a result of which her mother gave up flying and her father became a vegetarian.
Recalling those days, her father said:
"She kept showing us documentaries, and we read books together. Before that, I really didn’t have a clue. I thought we had the climate issue sorted."
On 20th August 2018, after a severe heat wave struck Sweden, she decided not to go back to school and rather strike in front of the Swedish Parliament. She appealed to all school children to strike every Friday.
The fact that she has been diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome - a developmental disorder that restrict the abilities of social interaction - only made her more resolute.
"It’s just who I am. If I had been just like everyone else and been social, then I would have just tried to start an organization. But I couldn’t do that. I’m not very good with people, so I did something myself instead."
She spoke in front of 10,000 people in Helsinki to come and join her in the protests. At an age when we don't even know the rules this world follows, she was talking of changing them. These were her exact words.
"We can't save the world by playing by the rules. Because the rules have to be changed."
Speaking at the UN Climate Change Conference in Poland, she pointed out how no solutions adequate to the gravity of the climate change situation have been taken.
"Many people say that Sweden is just a small country and it doesn’t matter what we do. But I’ve learned you are never too small to make a difference. And if a few children can get headlines all over the world just by not going to school, then imagine what we could all do together if we really wanted to."
In a video by Brut India, she even had a message for PM Modi.
"Dear Mr. Modi, you need to take action now against the climate crisis, not just talking about it because if you keep going on like this, doing business as usual, and just talking about and bragging about the little victories, you are going to fail. And if you fail, you are going to be seen as one of the worst villains in human history in the future. And you don’t want that."
Greta Thunberg is a 16-year-old climate activist who has inspired thousands of young people worldwide to fight climate change. This is her message to the Indian prime minister. 🌏🔥✊ pic.twitter.com/3FZTztv5Ob— Brut India (@BrutIndia) February 20, 2019
In March 2019, she was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for climate activism. If she wins, she would be the youngest Nobel Prize recipient ever.
Honoured and very grateful for this nomination ❤️ https://t.co/axO4CAFXcz— Greta Thunberg (@GretaThunberg) March 14, 2019
Till now, she has been lauded at the UN, met French president Emmanuel Macron, shared a podium with the European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker, and has been endorsed by the German chancellor, Angela Merkel.
In a movement led by her, millions of children took to streets to protest against climate change on 20th September. This was the largest ever environment protest in the history of the world.
Tomorrow we strike back!— Greta Thunberg (@GretaThunberg) September 19, 2019
Global Climate Strike September 20-27th:
In 156 countries
On all 7 continents
Find your local strike or register your own at https://t.co/G06WbXNvl1
Spread the word and see you in the streets!#FridaysForFuture #ClimateStrike pic.twitter.com/E6MSYFsqug