Greta Thunberg, the Swedish teenager who became the voice of a generation facing the climate change emergency, was Wednesday named Time magazine’s 2019 Person of the Year.
Unknown to the world when she launched a solo strike against global warming in mid-2018, the 16-year-old has since inspired millions in a worldwide movement that saw her tipped as a Nobel laureate.
“Wow, this is unbelievable!” Thunberg tweeted after the announcement -- which came as she pressed her call for action at a high-stakes UN climate gathering in Madrid.
“I share this great honor with everyone in the #FridaysForFuture movement and climate activists everywhere.”
The magazine interviewed Thunberg aboard the sailboat that took her from the United States back to Europe, after a months-long journey through North America aimed at raising environmental awareness.
“We can’t just continue living as if there was no tomorrow, because there is a tomorrow. That is all we are saying,” Thunberg told Time.
“The politics of climate action are as entrenched and complex as the phenomenon itself, and Thunberg has no magic solution,” Time wrote of the teenager. “But she has succeeded in creating a global attitudinal shift, transforming millions of vague, middle-of-the-night anxieties into a worldwide movement calling for urgent change.
“She has offered a moral clarion call to those who are willing to act, and hurled shame on those who are not.”
Some have mocked her youth -- or sought to discredit her because she has Asperger’s syndrome, a mild form of autism. Her diagnosis means that Thunberg “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.”
US President Donald Trump yesterday slammed Time magazine’s decision, saying the climate activist should “chill” and go see a movie.
“So ridiculous. Greta must work on her Anger Management problem, then go to a good old fashioned movie with a friend! Chill Greta, Chill!” he tweeted.
But the Greta has fanous supporters too.
“No one is too small to have an impact and change the world,” tweeted The Obama Foundation as it welcomed the Time announcement.
Democratic White House hopeful Joe Biden echoed that sentiment, saying the “honor is well-deserved”.
“I couldn’t think of a better Person of the Year,” agreed former secretary of state Hillary Clinton, thanking Thunberg for her “willingness to tell hard, motivating truths.”