Greta Thunberg … ‘I have always been that girl in the back who doesn’t say anything.’
Photograph: Michael Campanella/The Guardian
Greta Thunberg cut a frail and lonely figure when she started a school strike for the climate outside the Swedish parliament building last August. Her parents tried to dissuade her. Classmates declined to join. Passersby expressed pity and bemusement at the sight of the then unknown 15-year-old sitting on the cobblestones with a hand-painted banner.
Eight months on, the picture could not be more different. The pigtailed teenager is feted across the world as a model of determination, inspiration and positive action. National presidents and corporate executives line up to be criticised by her, face to face. Her skolstrejk för klimatet (school strike for climate) banner has been translated into dozens of languages. And, most striking of all, the loner is now anything but alone.
On 15 March, when she returns to the cobblestones (as she has done almost every Friday in rain, sun, ice and snow), it will be as a figurehead for a vast and growing movement. The global climate strike this Friday is gearing up to be one of the biggest environmental protests the world has ever seen. As it approaches, Thunberg is clearly excited. “It’s amazing,” she says. “It’s more than 71 countries and more than 700 places, and counting. It’s increasing very much now, and that’s very, very fun.” A year ago, this was unimaginable. Back then, Thunberg was a painfully introverted, slightly built nobody, waking at 6am to prepare for school and heading back home at 3pm. “Nothing really was happening in my life,” she recalls. “I have always been that girl in the back who doesn’t say anything. I thought I couldn’t make a difference because I was too small.”
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