This 15-year-old Girl Breaks Swedish Law for the Climate

Greta Thunberg skips school to protest outside Swedish Parliament: “If grown-ups don’t give a shit about my future, I won’t either.”

Greta Thunberg outside of the Swedish parliament (Sveriges Riksdag), August 2018. The September 9 election may change the ‘Sveriges Riksdag’ forever.

On Monday August 20, Greta Thunberg was supposed to start school again after a long summer break. But instead of rejoining her classmates, the ninth-grader seated herself against the stone facade of the Swedish Parliament’s main building in central Stockholm.

The spot is well chosen, as many politicians, professionals and ordinary people pass by daily. Next to her, she has placed a sign that reads “School Strike for the Climate”. In front of her is a pile of leaflets on which her intentions have been clearly pinned down:

We kids most often don’t do what you tell us to do. We do as you do. And since you grown-ups don’t give a shit about my future, I won’t either. My name is Greta and I’m in ninth grade. And I refuse school for the climate until the Swedish general election.

In Sweden, going to school is compulsory. Therefore, Greta Thunberg, 15, is breaking the law.

– I’m too young to vote. But Swedish law requires that I go to school. So I do this to make my voice heard and attract media attention to the climate crisis, she says.

Greta and some of her supporters. The street outside the Swedish parliament’s main building is a busy place.

Greta’s interest in the climate was awakened when her teachers told her that, to curb global warming, it was important to save energy and recycle.

— They told us that there’s this thing called climate change and that it’s a very serious threat against our future. The more I learned about it, the more I thought: ‘If this is so serious, why don’t we talk about it, and try to solve it, all the time?’

Greta became a climate champion and tried to influence those closest to her. Her father now writes articles and gives lectures on the climate crisis, whereas her mother, a famous Swedish opera singer, has stopped flying. All thanks to Greta.

And clearly, she has stepped up her game, influencing the national conversation on the climate crisis — two weeks before the election. We Don’t Have Time reported on Greta’s strike on its first day and in less than 24 hours our Facebook posts and tweets received over twenty thousand likes, shares and comments. It didn’t take long for national media to catch on. As of the first week of the strike, at least six major daily newspapers, as well as Swedish and Danish national TV, have interviewed Greta. Two Swedish party leaders have stopped by to talk to her as well.

– I thought I’d be sitting her all alone, but since day two I’ve done many, many interviews, and people have come by to show their support. For every interview I do, I get an opportunity to stress the severity of the climate crisis. I’ve already achieved more than I’d hoped for.

Greta’s action has attracted significant media attention, as well as ordinary people who sit with her in support of her cause.

I spent an hour around Greta’s spot, and during that time she was interviewed three times. Also, many people came by to chat with Greta and show their support, among them a group of twenty people from a Swedish network for sustainable business. And others have joined in. A dozen people now sit alongside Greta in support of her cause.

One of them is Benjamin Wagner, who has brought a sign of his own: “Teacher Strike for the Climate.”

– I share Greta’s frustration and sit here instead of working as a substitute teacher. I think her initiative is spot on. If the adults are going to let the kids down regarding the climate crisis, then the kids are in their full right to let the adults down by skipping school. Some people say that it’s better to try established ways of influencing politics and society. Those ways haven’t worked. We need to put our feet down and say enough is enough, says Benjamin Wagner.

Benjamin Wagner, left. Greta Thunberg, right.

After only a week, Greta has made a huge impact. And she invites others to join her.

– I think this is a more efficient way to influence politicians and other leaders to do something for the climate than participating in a climate march. What if a million school children skipped school for the climate and instead sat outside parliaments and town halls? That would carry an enormous weight and be talked about world-wide.

Greta’s note: “We kids most often don’t do what you tell us to do. We do as you do. And since you grown-ups don’t give a shit about my future, I won’t either. My name is Greta and I’m in ninth grade. And I refuse school for the climate until the Swedish general election.”

Is there something big going on here? This one kid immediately got twenty supporters who now sit next to her. This one kid created numerous news stories in national newspapers and on TV. This one kid has received thousands of messages of love and support on social media. What if ten kids did like Greta and went on school strike? 100 kids? A million kids? What if ten million kids showed the world that school is pointless if there is no future?

Movements by young people, such as Jaime Margolin’s #ThisIsZeroHour that #WeDontHaveTime interviewed earlier, speaks with a much needed urgency that grown-ups should pay attention to: The climate crisis is an existential threat that must be forcefully dealt with NOW. We don’t have time to wait any longer. In these dangerous times, the young generation inspires hope. And as Greta shows, they can also have a major impact.

Greta’s protest makes it to the front pages of Sweden’s largest daily newspapers.

For more news and updates about Greta’s protest, we recommend that you follow her on Twitter @GretaThunberg.

Here are some of the stories in Swedish and internationl media about Greta:

TV 2 Danmark Danish public service, SVT Swedish public service, TV 4 News, Metro TV, Dagens Nyheter, Aftonbladet, Sydsvenskan, Stockholm Direkt, Expressen, ETC, WWF, Effekt Magazin, GöteborgsPosten, Helsingborgs Dagblad, Folkbladet, Uppsala Nya tidning, Vimmerby Tidning, Piteå Tidningen, Borås Tidning, Duggan, VT, NT, Corren, OMNI,
WeDontHaveTime CEO viral FaceBook post that mention it first

Use Google Web Translate if you don’t speak Swedish.

David Olsson, COO @ We Don’t Have Time
Foto: Adam Johansson


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Greta Thunberg outside of the Swedish parliament, under pressure and change in the September election.