The school-striker demanding urgent climate action. Greta has captured the world's attention with her honest and relentless demand. Her dedication has inspired all, from fellow school children to world leaders alike. This is her origin story.
Last updated: June 13, 2023
Lean Story Canvas
Just like any other 15-year-old. Loves her two dogs Moses and Roxy. Watching climate change films at school since 8 years old. Has Asperger's. “My classmates were concerned when they watched the film, but when it stopped, they started thinking about other things. I couldn’t do that. Those pictures were stuck in my head.”
Record heatwaves and Arctic wildfires in Sweden. Feeling like she couldn’t make a difference. Not being able to vote. Depressed. “For way too long, the politicians and the people in power have gotten away with not doing anything to fight the climate crisis.”
Swedish government to radically reduce carbon emissions in alignment with the Paris Agreement. “In the year 2030, I will be 26 years old. My little sister Beata will be 23. Just like many of your own children or grandchildren. That is a great age, we have been told. When you have all your life ahead of you. But I’m not so sure it will be that great for us.”
Swedish parliament who are not acting fast enough to stop emissions. “Sweden is not a role model. The people of Sweden yearly emits 11 tons of CO2 per capita. We’re the ones who need help.”
Call to Adventure
School strike protest, inspired by US high school teen activists who organised March for Our Lives (for anti gun legislation). “I realised no one is doing anything to prevent this from happening so then I have to do something.”
Crossing the Threshold
Skipping school to protest on the steps of the Swedish parliament in Stockholm, every Friday. “The first day, I sat alone from about 8.30am to 3pm – the regular school day. And then on the second day, people started joining me. After that, there were people there all the time.”
Three difficult but confidence-building hurdles to be overcome
- Convince her parents to change their behaviour. Her mother gave up flying and her father became a vegetarian. “And, after a while, they started listening to what I actually said. That’s when I kind of realised I could make a difference.”
- Spread the message and deal with the media. “I am here to say, our house is on fire… I want you to act as you would in a crisis. I want you to act as if our house is on fire. Because it is.”
- Spread the message and deal with politicians. “I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act.”
Allies and Gifts
School strikers, other environmental protesters e.g. Extinction Rebellion.
Mentors and Gifts
Rosa Parks, American activist in civil rights movement. Known for her bus boycott. “I learned she was an introvert, and I’m also an introvert. We introverts can make our voices heard."
Record-breaking climate neglect
Emissions faster than parliament
Sweden into Paris
Call to adventure.
Crossing the threshold.
Mentor, allies and gifts.
As the media appointed symbol of the latest wave of youth environmental activism, Greta’s story has ongoing power. This comes from her discipline to keep her simple yet striking message the same, as the story around her changes. At the same time, Greta’s evolved her role from the everyday hero to mentor and ally, making room for and amplifying other voices and cascading change across generations and countries – now known as the ‘Greta Effect’.