Within months of launching her “School Strike for the Climate,” or “Fridays For Future,” protest outside the Swedish parliament, Greta was spearheading global youth demonstrations and demanding environmental action from decision-makers around the world.
“I want you to panic,” she told CEOs and world leaders at the annual World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland in January 2019. “I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act.”
Her words spread like wildfire online.
The daughter of an opera singer mother and an actor-turned-producer father, Greta has faced severe criticism -- the latest from Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who dismissed her as a “brat” -- and been the subject of a swarm of online conspiracy theories.
Some have mocked her youth -- or sought to discredit her because she has Asperger’s syndrome, a mild form of autism.
Greta spearheaded the #FridaysForFuture movement, which encourages students to skip school on Fridays and protest for climate action.
Her diagnosis means that Greta “doesn’t operate on the same emotional register as many of the people she meets,” Time magazine wrote.
“She dislikes crowds; ignores small talk; and speaks in direct, uncomplicated sentences. She cannot be flattered or distracted,” and according to the magazine, “these very qualities have helped make her a global sensation.”
Greta has been mystified by the hostility she sometimes faces.
“I honestly don’t understand why adults would choose to spend their time mocking and threatening teenagers and children for promoting science when they could do something good instead,” she said in September.
“Being different is not an illness.”
Greta says she has received no money for her activism, but with 12 million followers across her Instagram, Twitter and Facebook accounts, she continues to rack up high-profile supporters, from Barack Obama to the Dalai Lama and Arnold Schwarzenegger.