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Who Is Greta Thunberg? Why the 16-Year-Activist Is Coming To America

The teen is sailing rather than flying in order to cut down on carbon emissions.


You may not have heard of Greta Thunberg, but she’s making some serious waves (literally). A 16-year-old climate change activist from Sweden, Thunberg has set sail across the Atlantic Ocean to attend the United Nations Climate Action Summit. The 3,000-mile journey could have easily been completed by plane, of course, but Thunberg chose the zero-emission option: a 60-foot Malizia II sailboat. The teen, along with her father and a small team, set sail from Plymouth, England this Wednesday and plan to arrive to New York in two weeks.

Thunberg rose to prominence after staging strikes at her school in Sweden, which has inspired a generation of young people to take action against climate change. Her voyage to attend the Summit has drawn even more worldwide attention, including Arron Banks, a British businessman who joked about Thunberg getting in an accident. “Freak yachting accidents do happen in August …” he wrote on Twitter. His comments quickly received backlash from British politicians and celebrities, which prompted a weak apology from Banks.

But Thunberg remains unfazed by her critics. “There’ll always be people who don’t understand or accept the science. I’ll ignore them,” she said during a press conference before she boarded the sailboat. “Climate delayers want to shift the focus from the climate crisis to something else. I won’t worry about that. I’ll do what I need.”

Though Thunberg shared a cheery update from day 2 of her journey, there will certainly be rough patches. Not only is it peak hurricane season, but the ship doesn’t have a toilet (only buckets) and Thunberg will rely on freeze-dried vegan meals. Surely, the teen will continue to face criticism throughout her journey as well as after, but she’s standing strong. “If it’s really hard I just have to think it’s only for two weeks,” she said of the trip’s inevitable challenges. “Then I can go back to as usual.”