Greta Thunberg Vows to Keep up Fight, Moving on from School Climate Strikes

Washington Post photo by Jahi Chikwendiu
Climate activist Greta Thunberg at a demonstration outside the White House on Sept. 13, 2019, in Washington, D.C.

Climate advocate Greta Thunberg graduated from high school on Friday. In true fashion, she marked the day with her final school strike, bookending a journey that began in 2018 and grew into a powerful, worldwide youth-led protest demanding leaders do more to combat climate change.

Thunberg, 20, became an icon of the youth climate movement after her first school strike in August 2018 outside Swedish parliament. She sparked an international protest movement, dubbed Fridays for Future, whereby students opt to leave class to participate in demonstrations, aiming to alert people and push for political change that will bring about climate action.

“When I started striking in 2018 I could never have expected that it would lead to anything,” she wrote on Twitter on Friday. After three weeks of daily strikes, Thunberg said she and others – “a small group of children” – decided to protest every Friday.

“We are still moving in the wrong direction, where those in power are allowed to sacrifice marginalised and affected people and the planet in the name of greed, profit and economic growth,” Thunberg continued. She warned of “rapidly approaching potential nonlinear ecological and climatic tipping points beyond our control.”

Thunberg is known for her blunt, no-nonsense attitude on climate issues. Speaking in front of global leaders at a United Nations climate summit in 2019, the then-16-year-old dismissed leaders’ praise of young activists such as herself and demanded drastic action instead.

“I shouldn’t be up here. I should be back in school on the other side of the ocean,” she said at the summit in New York. “Yet you all come to us young people for hope. How dare you?” In 2021, she said politicians’ promises have been 30 years of “blah blah blah.”

Thunberg’s fight for a transition to renewables has expanded. In March, she joined activists at several Norwegian ministries, protesting climate-friendly wind farms that were built on land traditionally used by the indigenous Sami people to herd reindeer. Thunberg was twice “moved” by police at the time, after blocking the entrances to the Finance Ministry and later the Ministry of Climate and Environment, according to a police statement.

“There are probably many of us who graduate who now wonder what kind of future it is that we are stepping into, even though we did not cause this crisis,” she wrote on Friday. She vowed to continue her Friday protests, although they would no longer technically be a school strike.

“We simply have no other option than to do everything we possibly can. The fight has only just begun.”