Thunberg is not your hero


Anders Hellberg

Thunberg (pictured above) is a 16-year-old climate activist from Stockholm, Sweden that has made waves globally for her outspoken criticism of public officials.

Molly Wetsch, News Editor

“If [the climate change movement] were about science, it would be led by scientists rather than a mentally ill Swedish child…” 

This is the statement that political commentator Michael J. Knowles used to describe Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old climate activist with Asperger’s Syndrome and obsessive-compulsive disorder from Stockholm, Sweden. 

Thunberg’s cause is perhaps the most prominent example of teenagers stepping up to create change. On Sept. 20, she spearheaded the School Strike for Climate movement, in which thousands of teens skipped school to protest in front of government offices. The strike garnered the support of an estimated 4 million people and even reached Sioux Falls. 

According to the Guardian, 14-year-old Iowa City resident Massimo Biggers has gone on strike from school every Friday since March 15. 

“At the time our specific goal was to get the school board to pass a climate resolution,” said Biggers. “But then it was pretty easy to get the school board to get a climate resolution so we went to the city council and now we’re trying to get the coal fired plant shut down.”

Biggers is just one example of how teenagers across the globe have been influenced by Thunberg’s words and actions; yet, what many seem to focus on is criticism of Thunberg by adults such as Knowles. Of course, these are completely valid issues to care about due to the sheer enormity of hateful tweets, news broadcasts and conversations that are circulating around Thunberg. However, it is difficult to reconcile this image of Thunberg, a small, scared child, with the image that is present in many young adults’ such as Biggers’ minds: that of an icon, someone who is making history. 

Thunberg argues that the public’s opinion of her should not center around either of these views. Contrary to popular belief, Thunberg does not think of herself as a hero. She understands that she does not know everything and does not pretend to, even going as far to call herself an “uneducated teenager.”

So, if Thunberg herself does not believe herself to be the savior of the modern world as many groups are making her out to be, why do teens listen to her every word? 

The answer is simple: she is one of us. It is rare to see someone just like us- and actually just like us, not a beautified, media-trained version of us rise above their station and truly make a change. For too long, teenagers have been idolizing Kardashians and Bachelorette contestants. Thunberg, a young woman with Asperger’s, who has humbled herself below the pedestal she has been forced upon, has inspired a new generation of people: one that is not afraid to be vocal, unabashed and downright demanding for their rights. That does not make her a hero. That makes her a catalyst, a starting block and the first gunshot.