Greta Thunberg Named TIME Person of the Year Today
Despite the mixed opinions already flying in response to TIME’s 2019 person of the year, one thing is indisputable: this teen activist has been incredibly impactful all over the world this year.
This morning, TIME magazine announced that its chosen Person of the Year for 2019 is indeed the Swedish teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg. After just 16 months of her first climate strike in Stockholm in August of 2018, this young girl has—all opinions of her aside—made her mark on the globe.
Thunberg accepted this acknowledgement with the same grace and poise that she has all her other, many recognitions in the last year. Earlier this year, she was named Sweden’s ‘Alternative Nobel Prize’ winner.
As dozens of news outlets will tell you, Thunberg has been rallying youth around the globe, speaking in front of elected officials and global leaders, and calling for radical, immediate change. Many people know her story as it’s told with her #FridaysforClimate campaign, her climate strikes around the world, and her courageous efforts to speak at public and private settings to not just call for action, but to remind leaders that it is up to them—that there are children’s lives at stake.
In the last 16 months, Thunberg has also met with the Pope, sparred with the President of the United States, and inspired 4 million people to join to the global climate strike on September 20, 2019—the largest climate demonstration in human history.
Just this week, Thunberg spoke at the UN Climate Conference in Madrid, the COP25, in an effort to urge officials to meet the terms of the Paris Agreement.
However, many people don’t know this 16-year-old’s backstory, how she started all of this by herself with a packed lunch and a hand-made sign. She had handed out flyers dismissing adults’ “concerns for her schooling” that said: “Since you adults don’t give a damn about my future, I won’t either.”
Many people don’t know anything about her family’s involvement with her efforts, and the occasional times—especially early on—when her parents did not necessarily support her skipping school and taking extreme measures for the climate. Many people don’t understand what the young girl has had to face emotionally as people mock condition with Asperger’s Syndrome or the fact that she is young, and not a legal adult.
TIME’s article on Thunberg as Person of the Year begins to touch on all of these details that are overlooked, or not well-known, about this global climate icon. It is not a justification of the magazine’s choice to make her person of the year; rather, it’s a much-needed feature on the person who has stirred the global pot and rocked people’s perceptions of everything: their carbon footprint, the food they eat, the planes they travel in, and the officials they vote for.
The article made a point to say that it’s not just all of these things that have made Thunberg the Person of the Year. Her ripple effect on other communities and youths around the world for other causes is also significant. While Thunberg does not take a public stance on other political movements, protesters like those in the democratic fight in Hong Kong have noted that she inspired them to fight for their rights, for what they believe in—saying no age is too young to fight for the future.
Of course, not everyone is jumping to celebrate Thunberg as this year’s decision. The TIME 2019 Person of the Year shortlist for contenders showed a wide array of somewhat controversial options that got people talking. Among those considered were President Trump, Nancy Pelosi, and the Whistleblower involved in the president’s impeachment trials.
But the naysayers and the waves of criticism does not seem to phase Thunberg. She continues to travel and partake in marches, protests, media appearances and policy-making forums. Her speeches are heavy, angry, and desperate as she calls on world leaders to do something about this climate disaster humans are approaching—if not for the sake of the Earth than for the sake of future generations, for the children.
The TIME article describes her rhetoric as raw and emotional, an approach that drive many to intense passion and some to the defense:
“Thunberg speaks quietly but forcefully, articulating the palpable sense of injustice that often seems obvious to the very young: adults, by refusing to act in the face of extraordinary crisis, are being foolish at best, and corrupt at worst. To those who share her fear, Thunberg’s blunt honesty is cathartic. To those who don’t, it feels threatening. She refuses to use the language of hope; her sharpest weapon is shame.”
TIME magazine only announced its Person of the Year today—and this will likely be a continued conversation with weeks and months to come as elections and global climate meetings occur.
Certainly, this is the not the first time TIME
magazine has taken the heat for its Person of the Year choice, and it likely won’t be the last.