- Greta Thunberg, a teenage activist from Sweden, is the face of the youth climate movement.
- New documentary reveals Thunberg has not spoken to anyone outside her family for three years before its rise on the world stage.
- Since 2018, Thunberg addressed the United Nations, the US Congress and the UK Parliament and met with countless powerful world leaders.
- Thunberg has Asperger’s syndrome, which she partly credits for his fierce activist nature.
- Visit the Business Insider homepage for more stories.
Greta Thunberg, one of the world̵
But a new documentary called “I’m Greta” reveals that Thunberg hasn’t spoken to anyone outside his family in three years.
“They call it selective mutism,” Thunberg’s father, Svalte, said in the November 13 film on Hulu. “She didn’t talk to anyone but me, my wife and her little sister, maybe for three years.”
Thunberg has Asperger’s Syndrome, which she calls a “superpower.” Young children with Asperger’s can develop selective mutism by talking only to people they are comfortable with, such as their families, but not strangers.
“I don’t like to have small conversations with people or communicate,” Thunberg said in the documentary, adding: “Sometimes I go quietly for hours just because I can’t talk.”
‘I was sick. I almost starved to death
Since 2018, Thunberg has become the face of a youth climate movement with more than 4 million people. She started the movement “Fridays For Future” – or School Strike for Climate, as she writes in Swedish on her now famous sign. In March 2019, Thunberg made more than 1 million students worldwide drop out of classes on Friday to protest against inaction on climate change.
Then, in September of that year, it led a global climate strike involving 4 million people in 161 countries – the largest protest against climate change in history.
Thunberg has been thinking about climate change – and the lack of action to limit it – since the age of eight. Three years later, she says she is depressed by the seemingly impossible task of saving the planet.
“We saw a movie at school. There were starving polar bears, floods, hurricanes and sushi,” Thunberg said in the documentary. “And the scientists said we didn’t have much time left to change our behavior.”
Then comes anxiety and illness.
“I stopped eating. I stopped talking. I was sick. I almost died of starvation,” she said.
Thunberg’s father said she stayed home from school for a year during that time.
It took her “many years” to start feeling better, she says in the film. Her desire to fight for climate action played a role in her recovery.
“I felt why give up when there are an infinite number of things you can do to make a difference,” she says.
A voice for the youth movement
The genesis of Thunberg’s activism career came in May 2018, when she won an essay competition on climate change for the Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladet.
In December of that year, Thunberg was invited to speak at a UN conference on climate change in Katowice, Poland.
This was the beginning of a public speaking career.
One of her most famous speeches was a passionate call for action at the UN climate summit in September 2019, a few days after the global climate strike.
Thunberg punishes world leaders with tears in her eyes: “You stole my dreams and my childhood with empty words,” she said.
Time magazine named Thunberg Person of the Year for 2019.
“I seem to speak a completely different language”
Thunberg says in the documentary that despite the many invitations she has received to address politicians, her frustration is growing as world leaders continue to disobey her.
“Honestly, I don’t understand why I’m invited,” she says, adding, “the feeling is that all they want is to be enlightened so that they seem to care as if they’re doing something.”
During a meeting highlighted in the documentary, Thunberg spoke to members of the European Economic and Social Committee about the need to limit carbon emissions. Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission, spoke after Thunberg, but he did not pay attention to the science she presented. Instead, he uses the possibility to regulate toilets in Europe.
“I feel like I’m speaking a completely different language or it’s as if the microphone isn’t even on,” Thunberg said in the film. “Sometimes when they just sit there and talk, I wonder to myself what would happen if I just stood up and screamed now.”