Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old Swedish climate change activist, has been named Time magazine’s 2019 Person of the Year for her role in inspiring millions around the world to stand for the planet.
Thunberg is the youngest person to be given the title since the magazine started the tradition in 1927, marking her as the most influential person of the last year. She started protesting alone outside of Swedish Parliament at 15-years-old and her passion has since grown into a worldwide movement, one of which includes inspiring the largest global climate protest ever.
"She became the biggest voice on the biggest issue facing the planet this year, coming from essentially nowhere to lead a worldwide movement," Time editor-in-chief Edward Felsenthal announced on the TODAY show.
Thunberg's passion, articulation of scientific evidence, youth, rising fame, and even her Asperger's diagnosis have been used against her by vocal critics, but this hasn't stopped her. When she has addressed these occasionally extremely personal attacks she has done so with grace, even when her detractors have been world leaders. She has even likened her Asperger's to a “superpower”.
Thunberg was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in March and was awarded an environmental award in Stockholm that she declined in an Instagram post writing that the “climate does not need any more awards.”
"What we need is for our politicians and the people in power start to listen to the current, best available science,” she added.
In September, Thunberg sailed from England to New York in a solar-powered boat to attend the United Nations Climate Action Summit much to the chagrin of her opponents. Her blunt, fiery speech was viewed on screens around the world in her bold statements directed at government leaders.
"This is all wrong. I shouldn't be up here,'' she said during her speech. "I should be back in school, on the other side of the ocean. Yet you all come to us young people for hope. How dare you!
"You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words. And yet I'm one of the lucky ones. People are suffering. People are dying.
"Entire ecosystems are collapsing. We are in the beginning of a mass extinction, and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you!"
Felsenthal says that Thunberg represents a “broader generational shift” in culture from protesters around the world demanding change. The young woman was chosen from a shortlist of five candidates including the anonymous CIA whistleblower whose complaints sparked the current impeachment proceedings against Donald Trump, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, who is leading the impeachment inquiry, the Hong Kong protesters, and the President himself.
"She embodies youth activism," Felsenthal said. "Her rise in influence has been really extraordinary. She was a solo protester with a hand-painted sign 14 months ago. She's now led millions of people around the world, 150 countries, to act on behalf of the planet, and she's really been a key driver this year taking this issue from backstage to center."
Thunberg responded to the title in an Instagram post saying that she “share[s] this great honour with everyone in the #FridaysForFuture movement and climate activists everywhere.” Two hours later, she reminded her followers of the climate strike scheduled for this Friday in Torina, Italy.