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Time Inc.'s "Person of the Year" tradition began in 1927, when the magazine commemorated 25-year-old aviator Charles Lindbergh for the first nonstop solo flight across the Atlantic Ocean. Though the media franchise has since recognized several young people for their global influence, it has never given the important distinction to a teenager. But then again, few teens are as passionate about their mission as 2019's "Person of The Year"— 16-year-old Swedish climate change activist Greta Thunberg.
Thunberg's rise to global prominence is even more stunning given that just over a year ago, she was a shy 15-year-old fretting about the looming threat of climate change. In August 2018, tired of the “refusal” of world leaders to take action, the young girl started camping out in front of the Swedish Parliament every Friday with a sign that said: “School Strike for Climate."
The teen's singular act of protest soon went viral, inspiring kids and adults worldwide to take action. By September 2018, her weekly strike became a global climate change movement called “Fridays for the Future," with tens of thousands of students skipping school on this day to protest the inaction of the leaders of their respective countries.
Her rally cry for progress also encouraged other young activists to begin their own climate change movements. They include 17-year-old Xiye Bastida in New York City, USA; 19-year-old Artemisa Xakriaba in Brasilia, Brazil; 17-year-old Vidit Baya in Udaipur, India; 16-year-old Howey Ou in Guilin, China, and many more. Varshini Prakash, co-founder of the US youth-led Sunrise Movement, says Thunberg "symbolizes the agony, the frustration, the desperation, the anger—at some level, the hope—of many young people who won't even be of age to vote by the time their futures are doomed."
The teenager, who has single-handedly helped bring climate change to the forefront of the global conversation, attributes her success to her Asperger’s syndrome. She says, “I see the world in black and white, and I don’t like compromising… If I were like everyone else, I would have continued on and not seen this crisis.”
Though Thunberg does not have a magical antidote for reversing climate change, she believes change can be affected at a grassroots level — by educating friends, being more selective about the companies you buy from, and electing officials that support the cause. In her address at the recently-held UN Climate Conference in Madrid, Spain, the young activist said, “In just three weeks, we will enter a new decade―a decade that will define our future. Right now, we are desperate for any sign of hope. Well, I’m telling you there is hope. I’ve seen it, but it does not come from the governments or corporations. It comes from the people.”
Resources: Time.com, CNN.com, Wired.com,USAtoday.com