Since arriving in the U.S. by boat to participate in the UN Climate Action Summit, 16-year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg has led crowds in both New York and Washington with a call for greater action against climate change.
Thunberg first captured the world’s attention in August 2018 after she skipped school to sit on the steps of Swedish parliament, demanding that political leaders do more to address the environment. Since then, Thunberg has successfully spread her eco-activism message on social media and inspired young people all over the world to lead school strikes in protest.
“We are the future. We are those who are going to have to adapt from this crisis,” Thunberg told PBS NewsHour’s William Brangham.
More highlights from the interview:
- On the urgency of climate change: “Many people seem to have this double moral. They say one thing and then do another thing. They say that the climate crisis is very important and yet they do nothing about it,” Thunberg said. “If I want to do something, then I go all in. I walk the walk. Walk the talk…I want to practice as I preach.”
- On the hope that political leaders will address climate change: “I think people are just simply unaware of the situation and people are not feeling the urgency. I think that once we start treating this crisis as an emergency, people will be able to grasp the situation more.” Thunberg added: “All of these climate movements that have played out during the last year, or years, is proof of that. I don’t think anyone could have predicted the school strikes and the Fridays for Future movement to become so big and many other movements as well.”
- On the concern that small scale eco-activism will distract from broader policy changes: “Of course, we focus on these isolated problems. We talk about, ‘People need to eat less meat’ …and then someone else says, ‘No, it’s much more effective if everyone stops flying,’ and so on,” Thunberg said. “We need to focus on all of these things. Of course, individual change doesn’t make much difference in a holistic picture…but we need both systemic change and individual change.”
- How being on the autism spectrum influences her worldview: “Humans are social animals. We follow the stream and since no one else is behaving like this is a crisis, we see that and we think, then I should probably behave as they do,” Thunberg said. “I’m on the autism spectrum. I don’t usually follow social coding and so therefore I go my own way.”
- On what Thunberg wants people to take away from her movement: “Everyone can make a huge difference. We should not underestimate ourselves, because if lots of individuals go together then we can accomplish almost anything. So that’s what I want people to take away from this.”
This story is part of Covering Climate Now, a global collaboration of more than 250 news outlets to strengthen coverage of the climate story.