It is clear that Greta is most active in the environmental activism sphere. Her career revolves around environmental issues and the fight against climate change. Despite her young age, she has been incredibly successful at raising awareness at the international level, as well as mobilizing masses around the world to unite in the environmentalist movement.
The Environmental Activist
As it has been mentioned, Greta has a short yet rich history of activist experience. While she is a student, she is currently taking a sabbatical from school to focus on climate activism (she is traveling to raise awareness and speak internationally).
The origins of her interest, concern and subsequent commitment to climate activism are as follows. In her TEDx Talk, Greta explains how she first learned about climate change at school when she was 8 years old, and by age 11 she was depressed and stopped talking and eating (she was later diagnosed – see Health section above). She first became an active environmentalist on August 20th, 2018 and she has already achieved a number of important milestones:
- She has been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize (by two deputies of the Swedish parliament and three deputies of the Norwegian parliament)
- Students from around the world hold school strikes every Friday
- Addressed the United Nations climate conference in Poland
- She met (and receive the blessing of) Pope Francis
- She addressed the United States Congress during her US tour
Greta has also been the recipient of other notorious recognitions and awards, which include:
- In December 2018, Time magazine named Greta one of the world’s 25 most influential teenagers in 2018. IN April 2019, Time named Greta one of the 100 most influential people of 2019, and she was awarded the title ‘Person of the Year’ (under the premise: “the power of youth”).
- In May 2019, the Vice documentary Make the World Great Again was released.
- More recently, she was awarded the 2019 Nordic Council Environmental Prize. She generated some attention as she refused to accept the $52,000 prize money as she viewed that “the climate movement does not need any more awards” but more people to start listening to science.
For further details, the platform Fridays for Future has a full list of Greta’s speeches (both in video and text).
More recently, an “anti-Greta” figure has emerged in the activist and political landscape. Her name is Naomi Seibt, and she is a 19-year-old German endorsed by Heartland Institute (an American conservative and libertarian think tank openly allied with the Trump administration). It seems as though Greta’s opposition has united to find, fund and promote Naomi Seibt as an alternative young activist, European and eloquent speaker (she has done a number of public events, including interviews on Fox News) who stands for what the Heartland Institute refers to as ‘climate realism.’ A video posted by Heartland is an example of Naomi’s (and Heartland’s, and Trump’s) key tactic and strategy, which mainly consists of actively defying Greta’s position towards climate change, as well as her credibility. In the clip, Naomi makes a reference to Greta’s notorious speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos, and argues that Greta’s alarmism is exaggerated. In a rhetorical push-back against Thunberg, Naomi says: “I don’t want you to panic. I want you to think.”
In terms of Naomi’s positioning on climate change issues, some of her more extreme language includes the statement that “climate change alarmism, at its very core, is a despicable anti-human ideology.” Another clear example of the role that Seibt has been hired to play as an opposer to Greta is the straight-forward language in which Heartland presents Naomi: “Naomi Seibt vs Greta Thunberg, whom should we trust?” This is perhaps the most obvious indicator of the purpose that Naomi is expected to serve: to be an opposing figure to Greta.
However, despite the funding (Naomi receives a monthly wage from the Heartland Institute), public support and clear endorsement from certain US actors (Naomi was described as “the star of the show” of Heartland’s forum at the UN climate conference in Madrid, on December 2019), the international media has not yet paid much attention to her and she remains relatively little-known. It is yet to be seen whether Seibt does become a true “anti-Greta” figure, but for the time being, she has not obtained sufficient attention or public following.