NEW YORK — She inspired a movement — and now she’s the youngest ever Time Person of the Year.
Greta Thunberg, the Swedish 16-year-old activist who emerged as the face of the fight against climate change and motivated people around the world to join the crusade, was announced Wednesday as the recipient of the magazine’s annual honor.
She rose to fame after cutting class in August 2018 to protest climate change — and the lack of action by world leaders to combat it — all by herself, but millions across the globe have joined her mission in the months since.
“We can’t just continue living as if there was no tomorrow, because there is a tomorrow,” Thunberg told Time in the issue’s cover story. “That is all we are saying.”
The Person of the Year issue dates back to 1927 and recognizes the person or people who have the greatest influence on the world, good or bad, in a given year.
Since her protest, Thunberg has spoken at climate conferences across the planet, called out world leaders and refused to waiver in her quest to make an impact on the future.
Time editor-in-chief Edward Felsenthal acknowledged Thunberg as “the biggest voice on the biggest issue facing the planet” in an article explaining the 2019 selection.
“Thunberg stands on the shoulders — and at the side — of hundreds of thousands of others who’ve been blockading the streets and settling the science, many of them since before she was born,” he wrote. “She is also the first to note that her privileged background makes her ‘one of the lucky ones,’ as she puts it, in a crisis that disproportionately affects poor and indigenous communities. But this was the year the climate crisis went from behind the curtain to center stage, from ambient political noise to squarely on the world’s agenda, and no one did more to make that happen than Thunberg.”
In the cover story, Thunberg and her father reflect on her becoming depressed at 11 years old when a teacher introduced her class to the dire effects of climate change. The teenager’s diagnosis of Asperger’s syndrome, the magazine says, helped offer an explanation for why it affected her in that way.
“I see the world in black and white, and I don’t like compromising,” Thunberg told Time. “If I were like everyone else, I would have continued on and not seen this crisis.”
The selection of Thunberg was praised by Hillary Clinton, who tweeted that she “couldn’t think of a better Person of the Year.”
“I am grateful for all she’s done to raise awareness of the climate crisis and her willingness to tell hard, motivating truths,” Clinton wrote.
Thunberg herself was floored by the recognition.
“Wow, this is unbelievable!” she tweeted. “I share this great honour with everyone in the #FridaysForFuture movement and climate activists everywhere.”
This year’s Person of the Year runners-up were President Trump, the anonymous whistleblower who helped spark the Trump impeachment inquiry, Nancy Pelosi and the Hong Kong protestors.
In new categories, pop star Lizzo was named Entertainer of the Year by Time, the United States Women’s Soccer Team was selected as Athlete of the Year, and Bob Iger, the CEO of Disney, was named Business Person of the Year.
Meanwhile, foreign affairs specialist Fiona Hill, ambassadors William Taylor and Marie Yovanovitch, former White House official Mark Sandy, Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman and the whistleblower were recognized as “Guardians” for their public service.
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