Just a day after being called a brat by Brazilian leader Jair Bolsonaro for expressing concern about the slayings of indigenous Brazilians in the Amazon, 16-year-old Greta Thunberg has been named Time’s Person of the Year for 2019.
Earlier on Tuesday, Time published an article in which Bolsonaro reportedly told a group of journalists that “It’s impressive that the press is giving space to a brat like that,” he added, using the Portuguese word “pirralha.” Thunberg, taking things in stride as usual, responded by changing her Twitter bio to read “Pirralha.”
Thunberg has been proactive in her efforts to change the world since Aug. 2018, when the teenager started an environmental strike by missing lessons most Fridays to protest outside the Swedish parliament building—starting a worldwide movement tracked online by the hashtag #FridaysForFuture. She has since spoken at United Nations’ assemblies and met with various heads of state, and even the Pope. Thunberg has been nominated as a Nobel Peace Prize candidate—truly a remarkable honor for anyone so young.
Earlier in January, she had the spotlight firmly fixed on her at the World Economic Forum, highlighting the precarious nature of the global climate crisis and urging world leaders to take immediate action. As she said then:
“Adults keep saying, ‘We owe it to the young people to give them hope. But I don’t want your hope. I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act.”
The teenager arrived in New York after sailing for 15 days across the Atlantic on an emissions-free yacht for the United Nations Climate Action Summit, telling The NY Times by phone before leaving the country that she “decided to sail to highlight the fact that you can’t live sustainably in today’s society.” Here she gave her now famous speech, putting politicians on blast for relying on the younger generation to solve climate change:
“This is all wrong. I shouldn’t be standing here. I should be back in school on the other side of the ocean. Yet you all come to me for hope? How dare you! You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words. And yet I’m one of the lucky ones. 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 fairytales of eternal economic growth. How dare you!”
Time’s editor-in-chief Edward Felsenthal said that in addition to being the youngest individual ever named Time’s Person of the Year in its 92-year history, “she became the biggest voice on the biggest issue facing the planet this year, coming from essentially nowhere to lead a worldwide movement.” Thunberg was praised for “sounding the alarm about humanity’s predatory relationship with the only home we have, for bringing to a fragmented world a voice that transcends backgrounds and borders.”
Thunberg is currently at the COP25 Climate Conference in Madrid, Spain, once again having sailed there after it was relocated from Chile.
Last year, the award went to Jamal Khashoggi and other journalists for raising awareness to the spread of misinformation around the world by governments and leaders who want to stop critical independent journalism.