WASHINGTON – Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old Swedish activist who has become an icon of the struggle against the climate crisis, said on Friday that the movement will not relent in its demands for action.
“I just want to say I’m so incredibly grateful for every single one of you, I’m so proud of you, who have come here, and I – it’s a lot of people. This is overwhelming,” she told a crowd of some 200 young people gathered across the street from the White House.
“Just never give up, we will continue and see you next week,” Thunberg said, referring to the Global Climate Strike planned for Sept. 20.
In August 2018, Thunberg, then 15, began skipping school on Fridays to demonstrate outside Sweden’s parliament. Her example has been emulated by thousands of students worldwide, giving rise to the Fridays for Future movement.
The Washington chapter of the movement protest weekly near the White House, but Thunberg’s presence made Friday’s mobilization a media event.
Yet, much as she did two weeks ago outside UN headquarters in New York, the young Swede preferred to leave the speechmaking to other activists, spending most of the time in the background.
Among those who did speak was Jonah Gottlieb, 17, the executive director of the National Children’s Campaign, who said that the aim of the protests was to “send a message” to the people in power.
“They know that we’re coming after them,” he said. “This is our planet and we are here to stay!”
The crowd also heard from Nadia Nazar, the 16-year-old founder of the group Zero Hour.
“We’re striking today to save tomorrow, not to save life in 50 years but to save tomorrow,” she said.
Ella Jacobs, also 16, told Efe that US President Donald Trump needs to “listen to the science” regarding climate.
Trump, who has described climate change as a “hoax” perpetrated by China to hamper the US economy, withdrew the United States from the 2015 Paris Agreement, which set targets for the reduction of emissions of greenhouse gases.
Thunberg traveled to the US to address the Sept. 23 United Nations Climate Action Summit.
The Swede refuses to fly because of the emissions associated with air travel and when the UN invited her to the summit, she faced the challenge of getting to New York without flying.
In July, the owners of the racing yacht Malizia II, which is skippered by Pierre Casiraghi – son of Monaco’s Princess Caroline – and German distance sailor Boris Herrmann, offered Thunberg a ride to New York.
The carbon-free vessel, which relies on solar panels and hydro-turbines for auxiliary power and is equipped with sensors that collect data on ocean acidity, sailed from Plymouth, in southern England, on Aug. 14, and reached New York two weeks later.
In the brief news conference she held after disembarking at Manhattan’s North Cove Marina on Aug. 28, Thunberg described climate change as “the biggest crisis humanity has had to face.”
“We need to stand together and take action because otherwise it might be too late. Let’s not wait any longer, let’s do it now,” the young Swede said. “My message to all the activists: Just keep going. I know it may seem impossible at times.”