Who is Greta Thunberg Actually?

Thunberg is only seventeen – by this age, she managed to get into the list of the 100 most influential people in the world according to Time, as well as to the list of people of the year according to GQ – as a person changing the usual picture of the world. In addition to the summit, she has made speeches at the UN conference on climate change in Poland, the World Economic Forum in Davos, a meeting with the British Parliament, the Pope, and Barack Obama.

Talking about Greta’s activism really can’t be separated from talking about her mental health. She says that she learned about climate change and global warming when she was eight years old and wondered why so little is said about the issue. At the age of eleven, Greta fell into a severe depression – she stopped talking and eating, having lost about ten kilograms in two months. She was bullied at school – but the girl’s parents only found out about it when her father Svante brought Greta to school for the Christmas holiday and found that the children laugh at her even in his presence.

When the girl’s condition leveled off thanks to the medication, she was given several diagnoses at once: Asperger’s syndrome (one of the forms of autism), obsessive-compulsive disorder, and selective mutism – the inability to talk in certain social situations.

Greta basically does not fly by air because of the large emissions of carbon dioxide and arrived at the summit on an eco-friendly yacht – with solar panels that generate electricity and a saltwater desalter. In her speech, she also criticized world governments for not acting boldly enough. In addition to emotional phrases, the speech also contains clear data. For example, if by January 1, 2018, humanity had to limit emissions to 420 gigatons in order to have a 67 percent chance of preventing irreversible climate change and stopping global warming at 1.5 degrees, today this figure has decreased to 350 gigatons. According to Greta, at the current rate of development, we will use up this “reserve” of emissions in less than eight and a half years. Global warming, according to the estimates of various organizations, will lead to an increase in the number of droughts and hunger and increase the spread of diseases transmitted by insects. It can lead to severe air pollution, which, as a result, will affect the life expectancy of millions of people, and increase the number of climatic disasters – for example, fires and floods.

Nevertheless, conversations about Greta have touched on her features before. She is accused of being manipulated to promote leftist ideas, but she is also often criticized for her “harsh” and “aggressive” appearance and monotonous manner of speech – traits that may be associated with autism. In an interview with GQ, Greta says that she writes her own lyrics, although she consults with other people. According to her, her father often tries to soften what she says: “He worries that I will say something bad – I already do it, but he is still afraid.” She recalls writing a speech for the UN Secretary-General and wanted to add the phrase “Why to go to school if we have no future”.

Another frequent leitmotif of conversations about Greta is that she “overcomes” her own state, thanks to which she can engage in activism. Thunberg herself believes that autism determines her activism, that thanks to it, she sees the world differently and that this is what shapes the way she acts and what she says. In an interview, she admitted that when she was nine, climate change became her special interest – this is the name of the things and topics that arouse special attention in people with autism, are the main topic of their conversations and thoughts, and can form the basis of their identity. She has explained more than once that thanks to autism she sees the world differently – according to her, for example, it is easier for her than for neurotypical people to notice lies: “I do not like compromises. Either you adhere to the principles of sustainable development or not – you cannot do it in half. “


Greta says she doesn’t talk much about autism, not because she tries to hide behind the diagnosis, but because many still perceive it as a disease. She herself believes that under certain conditions, being different from others can become a superpower.

Anastasia Fetter

Anastasia Fetter