After a time, Greta Thunberg and her family decided that freaking out was the only rational response, not only to climate change but to modern life.
Greta Thunberg began her “School Strike for Climate Change” on August 20, 2018, when she was fifteen years old. Her plan was to demonstrate in front of the Swedish parliament from the first day of the fall term until the country’s parliamentary elections three weeks later. Every morning, she would bike to the parliament, arriving when her classes would have started. After posting on social media, she would turn off her phone, as would have been required in the classroom. During the day, she sat on the ground outside the building, studying her textbooks, although she made it clear, in interviews, that she found preparing for the future to be pointless. “Why should any young person be made to study for a future when no one is doing enough to save that future?” she wrote in the Guardian in November of that year. At the hour when school would normally end, she packed up her things and cycled home. In a matter of days, she became a globally recognized figure, known for her precise articulation of the scientific causes of climate change and the unequivocal condemnation she rained upon her elders for failing to address it.
After the Swedish elections, she decided to continue her campaign by striking only on Fridays, sparking what has become a global student movement called Fridays for Future. It is a protest she has continued, every Friday, whether leading thousands of students in cities around the world or, as in the past week, while she recovered from a suspected case of the coronavirus, posting online from home.
In Sweden, a year after Thunberg began her movement, she co-authored a book, “Our House Is on Fire: Scenes of a Family and a Planet in Crisis.” It was published in the U.S., in an English translation by Paul Norlen and Saskia Vogel, on March 17th, one of the early days of the mass disruption of public life in response to the spread of the coronavirus in the United States. Last year, some of Thunberg’s lectures were also published as a short book, called “No One Is Too Small to Make a Difference.”
Her missives of alarm—“I want you to panic” is a frequent refrain in her speeches—are strange to read during the pandemic. Here we are, panicking on a global scale, but for a different, though not unrelated, reason.
Emily Witt – The New Yorker – April 6, 2020.