Climate Action

Greta Thunberg named TIME’s 2019 Person of the Year

TIME has named 16-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg its 2019 Person of the Year, the publication announced Wednesday morning.

TIME editor-in-chief Edward Felsenthal outlined the publication’s decision in an article published this morning: “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.”

Thunberg is the founder of climate organization Fridays for Future, which encourages people to strike every Friday to pressure governments to act on climate change. Thunberg started striking in August of 2018, sitting outside Swedish parliament in Stockholm every Friday and holding a now famous sign that read Skolstrejk för Klimatet (school strike for the climate).

Thunberg’s commitment and authenticity has helped to galvanize a growing youth climate movement worldwide. Many now consider her the face of climate action.

“I’ve learned you are never too small to make a difference,” said Thunberg at the United Nations’ 24th Conference of Parties (COP24) in Poland last year. “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.”

Thunberg’s messaging is often direct and blunt, and her arguments based in science.

“For more than 30 years the science has been crystal clear. How dare you continue to look away,” said Thunberg in an impassioned speech at the U.N. Climate Action Summit In New York City this year.

In September, Thunberg spoke to the United States Congress alongside other youth climate leaders, submitting landmark 2018 research from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) as her testimony. The special report gives us a dozen years to curb greenhouse gases to avoid 2 degrees of warming and limit the effects of a climate catastrophe.

Thunberg is the youngest individual ever named TIME’s Person of the Year. The decision comes as world leaders meet in Madrid for the U.N.’s COP25 to discuss strategies like carbon cap-and-trade and other ways of reducing national carbon footprints.

Against the backdrop of this conference are major activities by civil society, including global climate strikes and marches. Last Friday, 500,000 joined Thunberg (who recently arrived in Europe after the COP was suddenly switched from Chile to Spain) to take to the streets in Madrid to protest climate inaction.

“There is hope,” said Thunberg in a speech at COP25 this morning. “I have seen it, but it does not come from the governments or corporations — it comes from the people.”

For too long, governments have dragged their feet on the biggest crisis humanity has ever seen.  If we’re to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, we need participation from all sectors, civil society included. History has shown that coordinated public mobilization of millions of people can be a powerful tool to force governments into action.

“Every great change throughout history has come from the people,” said Thunberg. “We do not have to wait. We can start change right now. We, the people.”

April 22, 2020, marks the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. We need your help to pull off the largest, most diverse mobilization in the history of the world. Our planet depends on it. Join EARTHRISE and join the intergenerational mobilization to take to the streets this April.