“We Are Striking to Disrupt the System”: A Democracy Now Interview With 16-Year-Old Climate Activist Greta Thunberg
September 16th 2019
In her first extended broadcast interview in the United States, we spend the hour with Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old Swedish climate activist who has inspired millions across the globe. Last year she launched a school strike for the climate, skipping school every Friday to stand in front of the Swedish parliament, demanding action to prevent catastrophic climate change. Her protest spread, quickly going global. Hundreds of thousands of schoolchildren around the globe have participated in their own local school strikes for the climate. Since her strike began in 2018, Greta has become a leading figure in the climate justice movement. She has joined protests across Europe. She has addressed world leaders at the U.N. climate talks in Poland and the European Union Parliament. She has even met the pope. And now she is in New York to join a global climate strike on September 20 and address the U.N. Climate Action Summit on September 23. Greta has refused to fly for years because of emissions, so she arrived here after a two-week transatlantic voyage aboard a zero-emissions racing yacht. She is also planning to attend the U.N. climate summit in Santiago, Chile, in December. Greta joined us Tuesday in our Democracy Now! studio.
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
AMY GOODMAN: Today we spend the hour with Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old Swedish climate activist who has inspired millions across the globe. Last year, as a 15-year-old, she launched a school strike for the climate, started by going in front of the Swedish parliament every day for three weeks, then skipped school every Friday to stand in front of the parliament, demanding action to prevent catastrophic climate change. Her protest spread, quickly going global. Hundreds of thousands of schoolkids around the globe have participated in their own local school strikes for the climate.
Since her strike began in 2018, Greta has become a leading figure in the climate justice movement. She has joined protests across Europe. She has addressed world leaders at the U.N. climate talks in Poland and the European Union Parliament. She has even met the pope.
Now she’s in New York to join a global climate strike on September 20th and address the U.N. Climate Action Summit at the U.N. on September 23rd. Greta has refused to fly for years because of emissions, so she arrived here after a two-week transatlantic voyage aboard a zero-emissions racing yacht. She is also planning to attend the U.N. climate summit in Santiago, Chile, in December.
I sat down with Greta Tuesday in our Democracy Now! studio.
AMY GOODMAN: Greta Thunberg, it’s great to have you back on Democracy Now!
GRETA THUNBERG: Thank you.
AMY GOODMAN: So, Greta, why don’t we start at the beginning? There’s a great controversy, and it’s how you pronounce your name. Can you say your full name for us?
GRETA THUNBERG: Greta Thunberg.
AMY GOODMAN: And that’s the Swedish version.
GRETA THUNBERG: Yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: And as you come to the United States, people are calling you by different names. Can you tell us how you sort of adapt?
GRETA THUNBERG: Sometimes it’s Tune-berg, sometimes Thunn-berg. I mean, I think it’s funny that everyone pronounces it differently. So, that is just — I don’t mind anyone pronouncing it wrong. There’s no wrong way to pronounce it. Everyone pronounces it in their own way.
AMY GOODMAN: So, say again how you were born, what your parents called you.
GRETA THUNBERG: Greta Thunberg.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, Greta, it’s wonderful to have you with us today. Let’s start at the beginning, how you got involved with climate action, how you got involved being deeply concerned about the climate crisis. How old were you?
GRETA THUNBERG: I think when I — I think I was maybe 7, 8, 9 years old when I first heard about the problem. And then, of course, by time, I read about it more and more and sort of understood how important it was and how severe this crisis was. And so, it was around that age and maybe 10, 11, 12. I think I became really into the climate movement when I was 12, 13. And that’s when I became like a climate activist. I went to demonstrations in my spare time, and I tried to join organizations and movements and so on. But then I just thought that everything was still happening too slow and that it wasn’t going fast enough. So then I just decided that I’m going to do something on my own, and that might not work, but there’s a chance it will — it can have an impact. And I thought, “Why not try?” So then I started school-striking for the climate.
AMY GOODMAN: You went through a crisis in that period, after you were 8 years old. Can you talk about what you went through?
GRETA THUNBERG: Yeah. It was after that I sort of caught up with reading about it, and I understood, and that made me very depressed, of course. And when you are the only one who really reacts about this crisis, and everyone else seems to just, “OK, it’s very important, but I am too busy with my life” — and I just thought that it was very strange that no one else was behaving in a logical way. And so, I —
AMY GOODMAN: What would that logical way have been?
GRETA THUNBERG: To do something, to step out of your comfort zone and to realize that, “OK, we cannot continue like we have done now. We need to do something drastically. And I am going to do everything I can to help to push in the right direction.” But no one seemed to do that. My parents were just like continuing like before. My classmates, every one of my relatives, I mean, no one was — no one seemed to care about these issues except me. And that was a strange feeling.
AMY GOODMAN: And so, you descended into a depression?
GRETA THUNBERG: Yes. It was, of course, caused by many reasons, but that was, I think, the biggest reason to it, because I just thought that everything is just so wrong and that everything is so strange and everything is so sad, and why isn’t anyone doing anything about this? And so then I fell into a depression. And it lasted for maybe a year or something. And then I —
AMY GOODMAN: You stopped talking?
GRETA THUNBERG: Yeah, I stopped. I stopped talking, too, because I have selective mutism, or at least had — they said it sometimes goes away — that I only spoke to some people: my teacher, for instance, my parents, some members of my family and so on. And I stopped eating almost entirely. I only — it was a big problem. I lost a lot of weight, because I was just so depressed. Nothing seemed to matter anymore.
But then I started to come back, to become better, to feel better. And a reason for that was because I saw that there are actually things you can do, and I realized that I can do things. I shouldn’t be sitting here doing nothing, wasting my time, when I can actually have an impact. And then I sort of started to become better, and then I became a climate activist. And that helped a lot. And I think the more involved I became, the more involved I got in the climate movement, the better I feel, the happier I feel, because I feel like I’m doing something important, something meaningful.
AMY GOODMAN: So, talk about what happened, what you did about, what, just about a year ago now. You were 15 years old. You went in front of the Swedish parliament every single day, at the beginning?
GRETA THUNBERG: Yeah. First — or, I mean, every school day, not Saturday and Sunday, but every school day for three weeks until the upcoming election. And then that was my plan, to stop after the election. But then, on the Friday, September 7th, that’s when Fridays for Future started, because then I thought, “Why not continue? Why stop now, when we are actually having an impact?” So then I and some other school strikers thought that we should go on, and we should call it Fridays for Future, and it should be on Fridays.
AMY GOODMAN: And how did the Swedish MPs respond to you, this 15-year-old girl, teenager, on the steps of the Swedish parliament all day?
GRETA THUNBERG: In the beginning, they didn’t notice me. Everyone just went straight past and —
AMY GOODMAN: Were you holding a sign?
GRETA THUNBERG: Yes, a big sign made out of wood.
AMY GOODMAN: That said?
GRETA THUNBERG: Yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: It said on it?
GRETA THUNBERG: “Skolstrejk för Klimatet.” And then some flyers I handed out, which I said — where it said, “We children don’t usually do what you adults tell us to do. We do as you do. And since you don’t give a damn about my future, then I won’t, either. So I’m school-striking for the climate,” and so on. And on the back, I had spent a lot of time writing down facts I thought everyone should know. And I handed out these flyers.
And yeah, but in the beginning, no one noticed me. Everyone just went straight past. Even when people started to gather there, the politicians, the parliamentarians, they didn’t see me. And then, to some point, it became ridiculous, in a way, because I saw them every — every day first and then every Friday, and they never said hi. So, after a while, they started to say, like, “Hi. Good morning.” And I said, “Good morning.” But they didn’t really highlight it, in a way. And then, when it became famous, when it became big, then they started to, of course, take advantage of that and say, like, “We support Greta and the school strikers,” and so on, because they will always pose next to you if that gains them. And —
AMY GOODMAN: Do you remember what some of the facts were on the back of that poster you carried?
GRETA THUNBERG: Yes. It was that — of course, it needs to be updated today. But it was like up to 200 species are going extinct every single day, and then, of course, sources on that, and, like, we are in the beginning of the sixth mass extinction, and just facts that I thought people should know, that should be common knowledge, and also a bit about Swedish emissions, about how a lot of our emissions weren’t even included in where we — I mean, the official emissions and just how much the average Swede emits CO2 per year and so on.
AMY GOODMAN: Sixteen-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg. She launched a school strike for the climate last year, skipping school every Friday to stand in front of the Swedish parliament, demanding action to prevent catastrophic climate change. She’ll be protesting in front of the White House on Friday. When we come back, she talks about having Asperger’s, and what she calls her “superpower.” Stay with us.
AMY GOODMAN: “Won’t Back Down” by Tom Petty. This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, as we continue my interview with Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old Swedish climate activist who’s inspired millions around the world. She’s in New York to address the U.N. Climate Action Summit on September 23rd and take part in a global climate strike on Friday, September 20th.
AMY GOODMAN: So, before you went global — we met you in Poland — before we came, seeing your hashtag, seeing your Twitter feed, it said — at the time, you were 15 — “15-year-old climate activist with Asperger’s.” That’s a part we didn’t talk about yet, the Asperger’s. When were you diagnosed? And how do you think that contributes to your concern and your singular focus on this issue?
GRETA THUNBERG: When I’m really interested in something, I get superfocused on that. And I can spend hours upon hours not getting tired of reading about it and still be interested to learn more about it. And that is very common for people on the autism spectrum. And yeah, and it just — I think that was one of the reasons why, why I was one of the few who really reacted to the climate crisis, because I couldn’t connect the dots why people were just going on like before and still saying, “Yes, climate change is very important.” I don’t get that double moral, in a way, the difference from between what — between what you know and what you say and what you do, how you act. And for me, it’s called cognitive dissonance. And I don’t really — I, in a way, I walk the walk. If I decide to do something, then I do it. And so, yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: You have called being on the spectrum your superpower. Why?
GRETA THUNBERG: Because it helps me see things in a way that others might not see, and it just helps me be different, which I think is a superpower in a society where everyone is the same, where everyone thinks the same, everyone looks the same, everyone does the same things. And so I think that is something to really be proud of, that you are different. And in such a crisis like this, we need to think outside the box. We need outside-the-box thinking. We cannot continue thinking like we are today, within our current system. And we need to — and then we need people who think outside the box and who can see this from a different perspective. And, of course, it’s not always only a gift and a superpower, that many people suffer from — suffer from it, because they cannot get the right adjustments they need, and they are not living under the right circumstances, which I didn’t, as well, for a long time. But now I do. And —
AMY GOODMAN: So, talk about how you’ve decided to live your life. Yes, you do this climate strike at least once a week, and we’ll talk about what you’re doing here, as well, in the United States, but the personal decisions you’ve made that are also political decisions — for example, what you eat, what you wear, how you travel.
GRETA THUNBERG: Yes. I think it was two or three, maybe four years ago, I stopped flying, because that seemed like a big thing to do, because the impact, the climate impact of aviation on a global scale. I mean, individually, it is such a big — it has such a big carbon footprint. And so I just decided I’m not going to fly anymore. And that, of course, was a lot of trouble for my family, because they wanted us to go on vacation and so on. So, I was kind of a troublemaker. But then I actually convinced them — I guilted them into also doing it, first my mom, and then my dad, as well, and my sister, as well. And then also I am vegan. And I have shop-stop. It means that you don’t buy new things, consume new things, unless you absolutely have to. And just these small things I can do in my everyday life, apart from activism and highlighting the problem.
AMY GOODMAN: So, in terms of being a vegan, explain what that means.
GRETA THUNBERG: That I don’t use any products made from — I mean, any — I don’t eat, for example —
AMY GOODMAN: Any animal products?
GRETA THUNBERG: — any animal products. I don’t use any animal products, both because of ethical and environmental and climate reasons.
AMY GOODMAN: In terms of clothes, you don’t buy new clothes?
GRETA THUNBERG: No. Either I buy second-hand or I receive clothes from someone else, or I just keep my own clothes, maybe use my sister’s clothes or my mother’s or father’s clothes. And yeah, we —
AMY GOODMAN: So, when we saw you in Poland at the U.N. climate summit in Katowice, talk about how you got there. If you don’t fly, talk about how you get around.
GRETA THUNBERG: I go by bus, by train, electrical car, and sailboat now, as well. And it takes a lot of time. And, of course, I’m not saying that everyone should stop flying and start sailing everywhere. But it was — I thought that I am one of the very few people in the world who can actually do this and who has this opportunity to do this trip. And then I thought, “Why not?” And it sure gained a lot of attention.
AMY GOODMAN: So, I want to go to the speech you gave when we saw you in Poland in Katowice at the U.N. climate summit. This is a clip of what you had to say to the U.N. secretary-general and all those who were gathered for the U.N. climate summit, for the COP.
GRETA THUNBERG: Today we use 100 million barrels of oil every single day. There are no politics to change that. There are no rules to keep that oil in the ground. So we can no longer save the world by playing by the rules, because the rules have to be changed. So we have not come here to beg the world leaders to care for our future. They have ignored us in the past, and they will ignore us again. We have come here to let them know that change is coming, whether they like it or not. The people will rise to the challenge. And since our leaders are behaving like children, we will have to take the responsibility they should have taken long ago. Thank you.
AMY GOODMAN: That’s Greta Thunberg, speaking at the U.N. climate summit in Poland when she was 15 years old. As you watch this clip, Greta, you were smiling. Why?
GRETA THUNBERG: It’s always fun to see, because it’s — I don’t know — just the way I talked and the way I — it is a pretty radical thing. It’s pretty radical things to say in front of the secretary-general of the U.N. And I remember that speech, because, before, I had prepared a speech, and my father read it through. And he was like, “You cannot say this. This is too radical. And you will embarrass yourself, and you will embarrass everyone, because you cannot say this.” And then I just say, “OK.” And I — and I cut it out.
AMY GOODMAN: What was it that you were saying?
GRETA THUNBERG: We can no longer save the world by playing by the rules. And, I mean, that’s — or if it was the “Why should I be studying for a future that soon may be no more?” and so on. It was something like that. And I cut it out so that he would see it and be calm, because he was very stressed. And then, of course, I memorized that, those sentences, and so I said them anyways during the speech.
AMY GOODMAN: But you went on from Poland, and you just continued to address more and more global bodies or regional bodies, like in April, when you addressed the European Parliament, where you urged lawmakers to respond as urgently to the climate crisis as they did when much of Paris’s Notre-Dame cathedral burned.
GRETA THUNBERG: Yesterday, the world watched with despair and enormous sorrow how the Notre-Dame burnt in Paris. Some buildings are more than just buildings. But the Notre-Dame will be rebuilt. I hope that its foundations are strong. I hope that our foundations are even stronger, but I fear they are not.
AMY GOODMAN: So, talk about that trip and how you ended up there at the European Parliament.
GRETA THUNBERG: Yes. I went there by train, of course. And I remember, because that speech, I had to rewrite the night before, because the night before or the evening before was when Notre-Dame burned, and I thought I have to include that in the speech. And so, I had to sort of — so it was a stressful night before to get that sorted. But it was — I remember, I think it was that speech, I cried during the speech, because it was so emotional with the things I was saying. I was talking about the loss of biodiversity and forests, and acidification of the oceans, and so on, and I just suddenly became very sad.
AMY GOODMAN: Let’s go to this clip.
GRETA THUNBERG: Deforestation of our great forests, toxic air pollution, loss of insects and wildlife, the acidification of our oceans, these are all disastrous trends, being accelerated by a way of life that we, here in our financially fortunate part of the world, see as our right to simply carry on.
GRETA THUNBERG: And after that, I think I went to Rome. Yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: You mean you went to see the pope?
GRETA THUNBERG: Yeah, to Rome and to the Italian Senate and to see the pope. And yeah. And then to London.
AMY GOODMAN: Let’s talk about visiting the pope, what that meant to you, and what the pope has said about the climate crisis, and what you said to him.
GRETA THUNBERG: Yes. I mean, he has been pretty outspoken about this. So I think that it’s good that he’s talking about this. And he was very supportive. And he said that I should continue doing this. And so, yeah, it was incredible to meet him, of course. And I was very honored to have the chance to do that and to speak to him.
AMY GOODMAN: And when you give these speeches, who do you consult? I mean, when we saw you in Poland, also on the show we had Kevin Anderson, the well-known climate scientist. Frankly, he didn’t want to come on with you, because he said, “Give Greta all the time. She’s much more important than I am.” But you two sat together. Do you speak with climate scientists?
GRETA THUNBERG: I do, very often. I ask them for, like, advice and how should I phrase this and so on, so that there won’t be any misunderstandings in what I’m saying, and also to — I mean, they help me a lot to — they read through my speeches to make sure that all the facts are correct. And I can just — if I wonder something, I can just email some of them or text, and then they often reply very, very quickly. So they are very helpful.
AMY GOODMAN: Talk about the issue of climate justice and what that means to you, Greta.
GRETA THUNBERG: Well, I mean, you can explain it in different ways. But an incredibly important thing in that is that those who have caused the climate crisis the most are those who often are going to be the least affected, and the opposite: Those who have caused it, contributed to it the least are most likely the ones to be most affected. And therefore, we must make sure that, of course, that we can help these people and that it is not so unfair in everything.
AMY GOODMAN: So, Greta Thunberg, I want to talk about the movements all over the world, that you are very much a part of and are inspiring. When you went to Britain, you spoke in the British Parliament, but you also spoke at an Extinction Rebellion protest. And we want to play a clip.
GRETA THUNBERG: We are now facing an existential crisis, the climate crisis and ecological crisis, which have never been treated as crisis before. They have been ignored for decades. And for way too long, the politicians and the people in power have gotten away with not doing anything at all to fight the climate crisis and the ecological crisis. But we will make sure that they will not get away with it any longer.
AMY GOODMAN: Greta, there you are, addressing a group at the Extinction Rebellion. That group was just really formulating when we were in Poland. They were there in Britain, starting to superglue themselves to places like ExxonMobil headquarters and other places. Can you talk about the significance of this movement?
GRETA THUNBERG: Yes. I mean, the Extinction Rebellion have really had a massive impact, I think, on our debate, especially in Europe, maybe not as much here, but that they are using civil disobedience, because they are saying, like, “We won’t get your attention otherwise.” And that is very effective. And so, it is really incredible to see what they are doing. And it’s that, along with Fridays for Future and many other movements, countless of other climate and environmental movements — I think we work together very well. And I think that we, together, have succeeded in making this a priority. It feels like people are slowly starting to wake up a bit more, and it has become more important for people, the climate and ecological crisis. So I think that that is very good. Of course, it’s not enough. Of course, it’s way too slow. But it’s still — it’s still something.
AMY GOODMAN: Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old Swedish climate activist. When we come back, she talks about her two-week journey aboard a zero-emissions sailboat to New York. Stay with us.
AMY GOODMAN: “Slipping Through My Fingers” by the Swedish group Abba. This is Democracy Now! I’m Amy Goodman, as we return to my interview with Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old Swedish climate activist who has inspired millions across the globe to demand action to prevent catastrophic climate change. Ahead of the U.N. Climate Action Summit she’ll address later this month, Greta arrived in New York after a two-week transatlantic voyage aboard a zero-emissions sailboat. I asked her to describe the journey.
GRETA THUNBERG: I got here on a sailboat, emission-free race sailboat. And it was actually a very good experience. I wish more people had the opportunity to do it, because it was incredible. And you might think that it was scary and hard and rough. But I didn’t feel like that at all. I wasn’t — I was very lucky. I didn’t feel seasick at all during these two weeks. And we went very fast; we hit 30 knots, I think, two times. And that is very fast for a sailing boat.
AMY GOODMAN: And what was it like being out at sea? I mean, this was completely new for you. Describe the experience.
GRETA THUNBERG: Yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: Most people never take a journey like this.
GRETA THUNBERG: Before I went on the sailboat, I didn’t really have — I chose to not have any expectations, because I just thought that I — I’ll just do it and enjoy it on the way. But it was actually not that bad.
AMY GOODMAN: You never got seasick?
GRETA THUNBERG: No. And it was just amazing to be in this wilderness and to see the wildlife there, with so many dolphins and other wildlife. And if it was calm, then during the nights you could see the stars very clearly, and you can see the Milky Way. And yeah, so it was — it felt very good to be disconnected, to not have contact with people outside, unless through, I mean, satellite phone and so on.
AMY GOODMAN: Your sails, the sails on this boat, these black sails, said, in white letters, “Unite behind the science.” Why did you choose that?
GRETA THUNBERG: I chose — I mean, they gave me an opportunity, like, “You can write something on the sail if you want. We are making new sails. And if you want, you can write something on them.” And then I thought, “Yeah.” And it was — I don’t know. I chose it because that is what I want people to do. I want people to unite behind the science, because I am not — all I am telling people to do now is to unite behind the science. And that is what we have to realize, that that is what we have to do right now.
AMY GOODMAN: Let me ask you about a New York Times op-ed piece, a column in The New York Times, that was written by Christopher Caldwell. It’s headlined “The Problem with Greta Thunberg’s Climate Activism: Her radical approach is at odds with democracy.” Caldwell writes, “Normally Ms. Thunberg would be unqualified to debate in a democratic forum.” He ends his piece by saying, “Democracy often calls for waiting and seeing. Patience may be democracy’s cardinal virtue. Climate change is a serious issue. But to say, 'We can't wait,’ is to invite a problem just as grave,” he says. Greta Thunberg, if you can respond to Christopher Caldwell.
GRETA THUNBERG: There’s nothing I can say to them. Just unite behind the science. I’m not the one who’s saying these things. I’m not the one who we should be listening to. And I say that all the time. I say we need to listen to the scientists.
AMY GOODMAN: And he ends by saying we have to wait.
GRETA THUNBERG: Yeah, we have waited 30 years. And I think we have been patient and been waiting and seeing in 30 years. And I think it’s time to actually realize the urgency of the problem and to do something.
AMY GOODMAN: It may shock people to hear that you are getting slammed on Twitter — also praised to the heavens by millions of people. But what do you think that means when you get slammed?
GRETA THUNBERG: I mean, you could see it in different ways. Of course, it’s sad that people spend their time doing this, when they could be doing something good instead. But you can also see it as something positive, that it means that you have an impact, that these people feel like they feel threatened by you. And that means you have made a difference. And I think this movement has made a difference; otherwise, they wouldn’t be spending their time trying to discredit us and to mock us.
AMY GOODMAN: I’d like to talk more about the attack on climate activists. I want to turn the U.N. high commissioner for human rights, Michelle Bachelet, the former president of Chile, talking about the attacks on climate activists, including you.
MICHELLE BACHELET: The office and special rapporteurs have noted attacks on environmental human rights defenders in virtually every region, particularly in Latin America. I am disheartened by this violence, and also by the verbal attacks on young activists, such as Greta Thunberg and others, who galvanize support for prevention of the harm their generation may bear. The demands made by environmental defenders and activists are compelling, and we should respect, protect and fulfill their rights.
AMY GOODMAN: So that’s Michelle Bachelet, now the U.N. high commissioner for human rights. She was the president of Chile, which will be hosting the U.N. climate summit, the COP25, in December, where Greta will be. It was going to be Brazil, but they withdrew their invitation to host the COP, because of the far-right climate change-denying President Jair Bolsonaro. Greta, if you can talk about what Michelle Bachelet said? She singled you out, talking about climate activists and attacks on them, but so many climate activists feel under siege. And also talk about your plans leading up to COP25, the U.N. summit, as you make your way through the Americas.
GRETA THUNBERG: Yes. Many climate and environmental activists are being attacked, and they are being, in some cases, even killed. And so I’m not the one who we should be focusing on in these cases. And it’s just horrible that you are trying to stand up for something that should be taken for granted — a living world and a functioning climate — and it’s just unbelievable to see what some people have to go through. And, of course, I know many, many activists, young activists especially, that are being attacked on the internet and are being lied about and being mocked, sometimes by elected officials and by respected journalists. And I don’t understand how you can attack someone like that.
And, I mean, sometimes these activists get — they get sad because of it. And that, of course, impacts them in a way that they feel like they cannot continue. And that is, of course, what they want; that is the goal of these attacks. So, I just, and the other activists who support, we support each other. We just have to comfort each other and to be there for each other and to say, like, “Don’t care about these people, because all they are doing is to — their goal is to waste your time and to make you tired of this and to make you want to stop, because what you are doing is actually good.”
AMY GOODMAN: You just recently tweeted that Amazon workers, 900 of them, based in Seattle — it’s the first time ever — they’re going to also strike on September 20th.
GRETA THUNBERG: Yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: What does that mean to you?
GRETA THUNBERG: To me and to the movement, it means incredibly much, because we have lots of unions who are planning to strike, so, I mean, adults striking from their work. And that is so incredibly important to show that this is such an — this is not just for children or teenagers. This is for everyone. And what we are doing, we are not, of course — I mean, we are striking to disrupt the system, to create attention. And I just hope that it will turn out well.
AMY GOODMAN: So let’s talk about what you’re doing in these coming days. You’re heading down to Washington, D.C., the nation’s capital. On Friday, what are your plans? That’s Friday, September 13th.
GRETA THUNBERG: Yes. On Friday, I am going to — this Friday, the 13th, I am going to join the school strike for the climate outside the White House in Washington, D.C. And I —
AMY GOODMAN: Do you protest every single week on Fridays?
GRETA THUNBERG: Yes.
AMY GOODMAN: Wherever you are in the world?
GRETA THUNBERG: Yes, even on the boat. Every week, no matter where I am, on Fridays, I will protest and demonstrate for the climate, outside the parliament or local government building or town hall or anything.
AMY GOODMAN: So, on the 13th, you’re doing it in front of the White House.
GRETA THUNBERG: Yes.
AMY GOODMAN: When you landed last week, you landed on Wednesday evening. Friday, you were in front of the United Nations.
GRETA THUNBERG: Yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: With those who you inspired, who had been protesting in front of the United Nations for many weeks, almost a year. So then talk about the following week, September 20th, what your plans are and what people’s plans are around the globe.
GRETA THUNBERG: Yes. On the 20th, we are planning a new global strike. And we call for people of all ages to join us, not just children. Adults are, of course, welcome, as well, to strike from their work. And so, I will be in New York the 20th of September to join the strike here. And then, on the 27th, there is also a global strike.
AMY GOODMAN: And then you head, eventually, in December, to the U.N. climate summit in Chile. Talk about the journey you plan to take between September and December.
GRETA THUNBERG: Yes. In December, I am planning to go to the COP25, and which is in Santiago. So, it’s quite a long way there from here, so I will have to make sure to leave on time and travel through the North and South American continent, and probably sail for a bit where it’s too hard to travel. And then I will be there. And I don’t know exactly what I will be doing there, but I have been invited to speak there. And then, after that, we’ll see what I’m doing.
AMY GOODMAN: And finally, your message to young people, people perhaps who don’t vote — that’s true — but are finding their place in the world? What do you say to them? And you can look directly into the camera.
GRETA THUNBERG: My message to the young people of the world is that right now we are facing an existential crisis, I mean, the climate and ecological crisis, and it will have a massive impact on our lives in the future, but also now, especially in vulnerable communities. And I think that we should wake up, and we should also try to wake the adults up, because they are the ones who — their generation is the ones who are mostly responsible for this crisis, and we need to hold them accountable. We need to hold the people in power accountable for what they have been doing to us and future generations and other living species on Earth. And we need to get angry and understand what is at stake. And then we need to transform that anger into action and to stand together united and just never give up.
AMY GOODMAN: That’s 16-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg in her first extended broadcast interview here in the United States. She’ll be protesting in front to the White House on Friday, then taking part in the global climate strike on Friday, September 20th, here in New York. On Monday, September 23rd, she’ll address the U.N. General Assembly at the U.N. Climate Action Summit. And she’ll be at the U.N. climate summit in Santiago, Chile, in December. Democracy Now! will be there, as well, covering all of these events.
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