Time Magazine has named Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg its Person of the Year for 2019.
Each year, the editors of the US news magazine choose a person or a group they feel has done the most to influence the events of the year.
Edward Felsenthal, Time’s editor-in-chief, said they chose Thunberg because, “she became the biggest voice on the biggest issue facing the planet this year, coming from essentially nowhere to lead a worldwide movement.”
He said she also represents a growing number of young people around the world who are pushing for change—like high school students in the US asking for stronger gun control laws, and protesters in Hong Kong seeking democratic reforms.
Thunberg, 16, has become the voice of young people around the world who are protesting climate change and demanding that governments around the world take action.
She first learned about climate change in school, when she was 11. What she heard made her very depressed for several months. Her family gradually began to change their lifestyle to fight climate change in small ways, like growing their own vegetables, using solar energy, and not flying on airplanes.
In August 2018, Thunberg decided to go on strike from school and protest in front of the Swedish parliament buildings. She wanted to pressure the government to take more action to reduce greenhouse gases and fight global warming.
People began to join Thunberg in her protest. As the group got larger, she decided to continue the protests every Friday until the government met its goals for reducing greenhouse gases. The protests became known as Fridays for Future.
By the end of 2018, tens of thousands of students across Europe were skipping school on Fridays to protest against their governments for not doing enough to fight climate change. Gradually, the protests spread around the world.
In September 2019, about 4 million people took part in climate strikes in more than 150 countries around the world.
Since Thunberg began her protests, more than 60 countries have promised to eliminate their carbon footprints by 2050. (A carbon footprint is the amount of greenhouse gases a person or organization produces in a year.) Many large companies have also begun changing the way they do business to reduce their carbon footprints.
Thunberg has spoken at many events and met with world leaders to talk about climate change. On December 6, she spoke at the United Nations climate change conference in Madrid, Spain.
“The current world leaders are betraying us and we will not let that happen anymore,” she said in her speech. “We say ‘that’s enough.’ And change is coming, whether you like it or not because we have no other choice.”
Thunberg was one of five finalists being considered for Person of the Year. The list also included U.S. President Donald Trump and the Hong Kong protesters.
THINK AND DISCUSS
1. When Thunberg was named as Person of the Year, US president Donald Trump tweeted: “So ridiculous. Greta must work on her Anger Management problem, then go to a good old fashioned movie with a friend!” Greta Thunberg then changed the personal information (her bio) on her Twitter account to: “A teenager working on her anger management problem. Currently chilling and watching a good old fashioned movie with a friend.”
What do you think about this public exchange between a US president and a teenaged activist? Discuss or write about your opinions.
2. After you have written your opinion about the exchange between Trump and Thunberg (see question 1), think about your own personal biases that may have affected your opinion about it.
3. The article mentions some things Greta Thunberg and her family did to help fight climate change. What have you done, or are you planning to do, or would you like to do, to help fight climate change?
4. What do you think of the photo of Thunberg on the cover of Time Magazine? Do you think it’s a good photo to represent the activist? Why, or: What would you have done differently?
TKN’s Sept. 29, 2019 article about Greta Thunberg’s climate change protest in North America: https://teachingkidsnews.com/2019/09/29/how-dare-you-young-people-rally-to-demand-action-on-climate-change/
Includes a video of Greta speaking at the UN, as well as photos of the Toronto march.
Time Magazine’s article about selecting Greta Thunberg: https://time.com/person-of-the-year-2019-greta-thunberg/
CBC News article about Greta Thunberg being named Time Magazine’s Person of the Year: https://www.cbc.ca/news/world/greta-thunberg-time-person-of-the-year-2019-1.5392006