In a short amount of time, Greta Thunberg has become a huge force in the fight against climate change. She first drew international attention when she went on strike from school in protest of how little was being done around the world to combat climate change. She was specifically calling out the Swedish government and decided to protest from August 2018 until the September 9 election to raise awareness.
Her first demands were for the Swedish government to reduce carbon emissions in accordance with the Paris Agreement, an international pact to slow down climate change. As Thunberg spent days outside the Riksdag, where Sweden’s government meets, attention to her plight grew, and she went viral for an impactful TEDx Talk in November 2018, propelling her to international acclaim.
Thunberg first learned about the growing problem when she was 11. She was so overcome with depression as a result that she stopped talking and eating. Thunberg was eventually diagnosed with Asperger syndrome, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and selective mutism, an affliction she says she only breaks when she needs to say something important.
After encouraging her family to reduce their carbon footprint, Thunberg caught the eye of activists with an essay on climate change that won a competition at a local newspaper. This led to her protest, which quickly grew from just in Sweden to participating in protests all over Europe.
Since then, Thunberg has been seen as the voice of her generation against climate change, the one who stands to be negatively impacted most. Her speeches — all showcasing the anger her generation has at politicians and governments that actively block measures to slow down the problem and work against activists — often go viral, with a flurry of impactful quotes showing how dire the situation is.
In some ways, Thunberg has managed to bring more attention to climate change than many other prominent activists. At a UN Climate Action Summit in New York City in 2019, Thunberg put it plainly: “You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words.”
Here are some inspirational quotes from Thunberg about climate change, making a difference and standing up to those who harass her:
On impact: "I have learned you are never too small to make a difference."
On intention: "The moment we decide to fulfill something, we can do anything."
On harassment: "When haters go after your looks and differences, it means they have nowhere left to go. And then you know you're winning!"
On change: "Right here, right now is where we draw the line. The world is waking up. And change is coming whether you like it or not."
On not giving up: “You must take action. You must do the impossible. Because giving up is never an option.”
On purpose: “I’m not that special. I can’t convince everyone. I’m just going to do what I want to do and what will have the most impact.”
On changing the rules: "We can’t save the world by playing by the rules, because the rules have to be changed. Everything needs to change – and it has to start today."
On unity: "Together and united, we are unstoppable."
On telling the truth: "I often talk to people who say, ‘No, we have to be hopeful and to inspire each other, and we can’t tell [people] too many negative things’ . . . But, no — we have to tell it like it is. Because if there are no positive things to tell, then what should we do, should we spread false hope? We can’t do that, we have to tell the truth."
On urgency: "My message is that we'll be watching you. This is all wrong. I shouldn't be up here. 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. Yet I am one of the lucky ones. People are suffering."