National Review

At sixteen years old, Greta Thunberg delivered a powerful speech at the UN Climate Action Summit.

Caitlyn Truong, Editor-in-Chief

When 16-year-old Greta Thunberg took the stage at the United Nations Climate Action Summit on September 23, she achieved an effect far beyond the environmental movement. While her cries of “How dare you!” to the world’s leaders echo earlier speeches and advocates, the attention–and hate–she is receiving is nearly unprecedented.


Thunberg’s spirited speech attracted much attention due to her young age, which grants her a unique perspective, but also due to the demanding nature of her language: “People are suffering. People are dying. Entire ecosystems are collapsing. We are in the beginning of a mass extinction, and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you!”


She garnered much criticism for her speech and activism, however, which was elevated by her young age and Asperger’s syndrome, according to Business Insider. Most notably, President Trump wrote a mocking Tweet which called her a “very happy girl looking forward to a bright and wonderful future,” and a commentator from Fox News declared her a “mentally ill Swedish child.”


Thunberg nevertheless received praise and support from multiple celebrities, including Leonardo DiCaprio, Chris Hemsworth, Camila Cabello, Joe Jonas, Cara Delevingne, Ellie Goulding, Priyanka Chopra, Penelope Cruz, Bebe Rexha, Mark Ruffalo, and Chrissy Teigen, according to USA Today. However, Thunberg proved more than capable of defending herself and took to social media to respond, “I honestly don’t understand why adults would choose to spend their time mocking and threatening teenagers and children for promoting science, when they could do something good instead. I guess they must simply feel so threatened by us.”


The overall response to Thunberg’s speech, however, has been an reignition of the environmental movement. Social media has been a large platform, with countless users sharing a video of her speech. Due to her age, teenagers have especially been drawn to her words; Shifa Mirza (12) finds her “inspiring” and hopes that “more young people like Greta can have the platform to make a difference while being taken seriously.”


At her urging, millions also took to the streets in an environmental protest on September 20, and climate scientists have noted that “she is getting people to listen,” according to NBC News. The greatest battle of any movement is simply having others be aware of the movement, and Thunberg has more than won this battle.


The criticism Thunberg is receiving is not unexpected, but it is startling in its amount and intensity. She is primarily targeted for her age, which is a concerning trend; young activists and influencers seem to receive extra negativity from critics who believe they are too young to understand what they are standing for. It seems that anything teenagers do is criticized, from modeling to acting to standing up for what they believe in. They are often disregarded as irrelevant and are encouraged to try again later, when they are older and supposedly wiser. 


Change cannot wait. People who want to make a difference cannot “try again later,” because issues such as the environment will not pause. The arguments made by Thunberg and other young activists are timeless and should not be ignored solely because she is younger than other advocates who make the same points. Age does not make it difficult to discern right from wrong, and the state of the environment is inarguably in the wrong.


Greta Thunberg’s efforts should not be characterized by her age, but by her courage to stand before the world and demand change. Despite the criticism and belittlement she is receiving, she is undeniably furthering the environmental movement and inspiring young activists to take a stand, regardless of their age. In her own words, “The world is waking up. And change is coming, whether you like it or not.”