One Girl with Autism Started a Youth Global Movement to Deal with Climate Change

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One Girl with Autism Started a Youth Global Movement to Deal with Climate Change

Greta Thunberg, who has Aspergers, started her protests about the failure of adults to deal with climate change by protesting alone outside the Swedish Parliament last August. Her solitary protest has cascaded into a worldwide student protest movement that has already staged several protests and will be holding more protests on March 15th and May 3rd. On March 15th there will be 1301 protests in 99 countries, in response to one autistic girl's actions.

I felt it was important for a change to celebrate someone who is not neurotypical or physically typical rather than always dealing with the problems that they face. 

Greta Thunberg strikes outside the Swedish parliament


 Greta Thunberg strikes outside the Swedish parliament last summer. Photograph: Michael Campanella/The Guardian


The following article describes the connection between her autism and her climate change protest that became a global movement. The article also includes a video of her 11 minute TED speech. 

As youth climate campaigners in the U.S. city of Brooklyn on Wednesday plan to continue a climate strike at least partly inspired by the ongoing vigil begun by 15-year-old Greta Thunberg in Sweden earlier this year, a new TEDx Talk released this week reveals that what inspired the Swedish teenager to take action was as simple as it was profound: she fell into sadness as she saw the leaders of the world—even those who admitted human-caused global warming was an "existential crisis"—continue to act and make policy decisions as though no emergency existed.

Everyone keeps saying, Thunberg declares in the 11-minute talk, that climate "is the most important issue of all, and yet they just carry on as before. I don't understand that. Because if the emissions have to stop, then we must stop the emissions. To me that is black or white. There are no gray areas when it comes to survival. Either we go on as a civilization or we don't. We have to change."

As a key part of the talk, Thunberg describes how at the age of eleven, several years after learning about the concept of climate change for the first time, she fell into a depression and became ill. "I stopped talking. I stopped eating," she explains. "In two months, I lost about ten kilos of weight. Later on I was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome, OCD, and selective mutism—that basically means I only speak when I think it's necessary." After a short pause, she adds, "Now is one of those moments."

"For those of us on the spectrum," Thunberg explains to the audience, "almost everything is black or white. We aren't very good at lying and we usually don't enjoy participating in the social game as the rest of you seem so fond of. I think in many ways we autistic are the normal ones and the rest of the people are pretty strange—especially when it comes to the sustainability crisis."

Towards the conclusion of her talk, Thunberg says that "this is when people usually start talking about hope—solar panels, wind power, circular economy, and so on—but I'm not going to do that." And continues, "We've had thirty years of pep-talking and selling positive ideas. And I'm sorry, but it doesn't work. Because if it would have, the emissions would have gone down by now—they haven't."  Finally, she says: "Yes, we do need hope—of course, we do. But the one thing we need more than hope is action. Once we start to act, hope is everywhere."