Greta Thunberg, the teen activist from Sweden who has urged immediate action to address a global climate crisis campaign has been named Time’s Magazine’s Person of the Year for 2019. Thunberg is the youngest person to win the award.
The magazine announced 16-year old Thunberg as its choice Wednesday exclusively on NBC’s “TODAY.”
Greta Thunberg was lauded by Time for starting an environmental campaign to fight climate change after protesting alone outside the Swedish parliament during school hours on Fridays when she was 15. The teen held up a now universally recognized hand-painted sign that read “skolstrejk för klimatet,” which translates to “School strike for the Climate.”
Thunberg’s initiative to strike soon went viral, inspiring kids and adults worldwide to take action. By September 2018, her weekly strike became a global climate change movement called “Fridays for the Future,” with tens of thousands of students skipping school on this day to protest the inaction of the leaders of their respective countries.
The young activist sailed for just over two weeks on a zero-emission boat with her father in August to attend the U.N. Climate Action Summit in New York City and to meet with various politicians.
During her appearance before U.S. lawmakers, Thunberg refused to read prepared remarks. She, instead, submitted the U.N.’s 2018 global warming report to them and declared, “I don’t want you to listen to me. I want you to listen to the scientists, and I want you to unite behind the science.”
One of her most notable appearances occurred at the UN Climate Change Summit in September when Thunberg excoriated global leaders, including U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres by telling them they had “stolen her dreams and childhood” with their “empty words.”
“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 fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you!” Greta Thunberg said.
The “how dare you!” sentiment reverberated universally, emboldening climate change activists while making politicians uncomfortable.
Her fiery words drew fire from several detractors including President Trump.
“She seems like a very happy young girl looking forward to a bright and wonderful future. So nice to see!” Trump commented after retweeting a video of Thunberg’s speech.
Her efforts also earned her a nomination for the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize. While Greta Thunberg lost the award to Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali, she remains one of the youngest nominees for the illustrious Prize.
The other Times 2019 finalists were House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, President Donald Trump, The Hong Kong Protesters, and the anonymous whistleblower whose memo on Trump’s dealings with Ukraine triggered the impeachment inquiry.
Time’s Person of the Year distinction is not necessarily a positive award. Rather, it is one that recognizes “the man, woman, group or concept that has had the most influence on the world during the previous 12 months”. Nazi leader Adolf Hitler, for instance, was named Time’s Man of the Year in 1938.