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The ‘Greta effect’ on climate activism

by Cecilia Villarosa

GEN Z climate activist Greta Thunberg’s recent detention in Germany following her participation in a protest against a coal mine expansion made headlines across the globe. 

She was released later in the evening. Thunberg confirmed this herself via her Twitter account.

“I was part of a group that peacefully protested the expansion of a coal mine in Germany. We were kettled by police and then detained but were let go later that evening,” Thunberg said.

In the same message, she posted, “Climate protection is not a crime.” 

Greta the activist

But who is Thunberg and how did she become a well-known environmental campaigner in the world?

Thunberg’s name is considered “thunder” when it comes to climate advocacy.

She is a Swedish activist. She was born on January 3, 2002 in Stockholm, Sweden.

Her interest in the need to protect the environment started when she was just eight years old. As she learned more about the environment, she became frustrated with small efforts being done to address the problem of climate change. 


She was later on diagnosed with Asperger syndrome, a form of Autism Spectrum Disorder. But her condition did not stop her from pushing for her climate advocacy. She even considered it as some sort of “superpower” as she seriously campaigned for environment protection. 

Her conviction is bold and clear – there are “no grey areas when it comes to climate change.” 

Rise to fame

But one incident started to catapult her name to worldwide fame – that was when she protested outside the Swedish Parliament in August 2018. She carried a poster bearing the words “School Strike for Climate.” At only 15 years old, she challenged the Swedish government to take concrete action to address global warming. 

Her protest was reported in the media, and later on, thousands of students from different parts of the world launched their own Friday strikes. 

Inspired by what Thunberg has started, climate campaigners launched the first “Global Strike for Climate.” More than one million people participated in the event from 125 countries.  

Since then, Thunberg has been actively advocating and taking part in protests and gatherings for the environment. She gave a speech before the 2018 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP24) and at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in 2019. An eloquent speaker, she also gave powerful speeches before the parliaments of France, United Kingdom and European Union 

She also had an opportunity to meet with Pope Francis, when she went to the Vatican in 2019. In a brief encounter with the Pope in St Peter’s Square, the supreme pontiff encouraged her to continue her work. 

Greta effect 

The movement for the environment which she started eventually became known as the the “Greta effect.”

Because of her invaluable contribution to campaigns concerning the environment, she has been nominated four times for a Nobel Peace Prize. 

Photo courtesy: Stefan Müller via Wikimedia



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