Especially in private, she sounds a lot like … a teenager.
In a very short time, Greta Thunberg—with her searing stare, Pippi Longstocking braids, and hand-painted sign reading SKOLSTREJK FÖR KLIMATET—has become a global icon. A year ago, the 16-year-old Swedish climate activist began striking from school each Friday to protest climate inaction; last Friday, she gave a speech to hundreds of thousands of people in New York, at the Global Climate Strike, which was inspired by her protest.
It is always at least a little unfortunate to see a young person become an icon—it robs them of the privacy of growing up. But Thunberg is an especially flummoxing figure. She looks younger than her years, yet her speeches take a shaming, authoritative tone that is, at the very least, unusual for a child. “How dare you? You have stolen my dreams and my childhood,” she told world leaders at the United Nations today. She has also said that money and eternal economic growth are “fairy tales.” So she has inspired both public adoration and malign theorizing (mostly centered around the power of her parents).