The Defenders

Greta Thunberg

“There is hope―I've seen it―but it does not come from the governments or corporations, it comes from the people. The people who have been unaware are now starting to wake up, and once we become aware, we change.”

Greta Thunberg is a 17-year-old Swedish climate activist who is known for her direct and confrontational calls for immediate action to address the climate crisis. Greta has spoken to leaders around the world, demanding that governments and corporations take action to reduce carbon emissions.

As a child, Greta was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome, a condition on the autism spectrum, and Obsessive- Compulsive Disorder (OCD). After learning about climate change when she was 8 years old, she was depressed and bewildered that no one was taking action. She stopped eating and mostly stopped talking. She began to feel more hopeful when she was able to convince her own family to significantly reduce their carbon footprint. They changed their diet (they are now vegan), bought an electric car, and agreed to stop flying, which meant an end to her mother’s career as an international opera star.

Greta then developed bigger ambitions and turned her sights on the Swedish government. On August 20, 2018, Greta staged a sit-in during school hours outside Parliament in Stockholm, Sweden to demand that the government make a commitment to reduce the country’s carbon emissions so that it would be in line with the guidelines in the Paris Climate Accord. She returned every day for two weeks with a sign saying ‘Skolstrejk för klimatet’ (School Strike for Climate). The media quickly took notice and word of Greta’s activism spread across the globe.

Greta was soon joined by millions of other young climate activists who began “fridaysforfuture,” a strike in which students refuse to go to school on Fridays unless politicians, governments, and corporations agree to take action on climate change. The most recent strike, on May 24, 2019, involved over 1.8 million activists in more than 110 countries.

As a result of her activism, Greta has been invited to speak with world leaders in highly prestigious forums. She has met with the pope and spoken at the UK Houses of Parliament and at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. When she was invited to speak at the UN Climate Action Summit in New York, she agreed after being invited to sail on a carbon-neutral racing yacht, the Malizia II. The trip from Plymouth, UK to New York City took 15 days. She later sailed back to Europe to attend the Conference of the Parties, the formal meeting of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, in Madrid, Spain.

Greta has also spoken at the Extinction Rebellion rally in London and performed a TED Talk. She has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, has been featured on the cover of TIME magazine, and has amassed over 4.6 million followers on Instagram and Facebook.

WHY DOES THE CLIMATE CRISIS MATTER?

Climate change is already having an impact around the world. As a result of rising global temperatures and sea levels, communities and countries are experiencing unprecedented floods, wildfires, heat waves, tornadoes, and insect infestations. According to scientists, if we don’t take action now, future generations will likely experience increasingly extreme weather, disease pandemics, and species extinctions. Sea level rise will force communities and whole countries to develop new ways of life.

Although the vast majority of the carbon dioxide emissions that cause climate change come from developed countries, the impacts disproportionately impact people in developing countries. Climate change puts the world’s most vulnerable people at risk of drought and crop failures, disease, extreme weather events, and conflict over increasingly scarce resources.

An October 2019 report by one of the leading international authorities on the subject, the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), conveys an urgent warning: We must cut emissions immediately to avoid the catastrophic effects of a warming climate. The report states that we must limit warming to 1.5 °C, which will require us to rapidly overhaul our energy and land use as well as our transportation and food systems.

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ABOUT THE PROGRAM

Discovery Education has teamed up with Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, Humanity United and Fund II Foundation to bring Speak Truth to Power to the classroom. Speak Truth to Power, a global initiative dedicated to sharing the stories of human rights defenders around the world, provides compelling content for a set of flexible, standards-aligned digital resources, designed to educate, engage and inspire the next generation of human rights defenders.

Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Mission Statement

Led by human rights activist and lawyer Kerry Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights has advocated for a more just and peaceful world since 1968. We work alongside local activists to ensure lasting positive change in governments and corporations. Whether in the United States or abroad, our programs have pursued justice through strategic litigation on key human rights issues, educated millions of children in human rights advocacy and fostered a social good approach to business and investment.