Thunberg surprised to be Time ‘Person of the Year’
Teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg said she was surprised and honoured Wednesday to learn she had been named Time’s youngest Person of the Year, saying the accolade deserved to be shared by others in the global movement she helped inspire.
The 16-year-old Swede has become the face of a new generation of activists, drawing large crowds with her appearances at protests and conferences over the past year and a half. Some have welcomed her activism, including her speeches challenging world leaders to do more to stop global warming. But others have criticised her sometimes combative tone.
“For sounding the alarm about humanity’s predatory relationship with the only home we have, for bringing to a fragmented world a voice that transcends backgrounds and borders, for showing us all what it might look like when a new generation leads, Greta Thunberg is TIME’s 2019 Person of the Year,” the media franchise said on its website.
Leaving a UN climate conference in Madrid, Thunberg told The Associated Press she was “a bit surprised” at the recognition.
“I could never have imagined anything like that happening,” she said in a phone interview.
“I’m of course, very grateful for that, very honoured,” Thunberg said, but added that “it should be everyone in the Fridays for Future movement because what we have done, we have done together.”
Thunberg said she was hopeful that the message being pushed by her and other activists — that governments need to drastically increase their efforts to combat climate change — is finally getting through.
But she insisted that the media should also pay attention to other activists, particularly indigenous people, who she said “are hit hardest by the climate and environmental crisis,” and to the science around global warming.
“That is what I am trying to do, to use my platform to do,” she said.
Thunberg said the movement, which has staged repeated worldwide protests attended by hundreds of thousands of people, had managed to spread awareness about the need to urgently reduce planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions and help those already affected by climate change.
“To get in a sense of urgency in the conversation that is very needed right now to be able to move forward,” she said. “That, I think, is our biggest success.”
Asked whether she thought world leaders were beginning to respond to this message, Thunberg said: “They say they listen and they say they understand, but it sure doesn’t seem like it.
“If they really would listen and understand, then I think they need to prove that by translating that into action,” she added.
She said the experience of the past 15 months, going from solo protester outside the Swedish parliament to speaking in front of world leaders at the UN General Assembly, had changed her.
“I think life is much more meaningful, now that I have something to do that has an impact,” she said.