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  • Writer's pictureJosey Goggin

Sometimes We Stand Alone

Updated: Jan 11, 2020

Half a million people marched in support of a school strike demanding politicians and the public act to address climate change in Montréal, Canada on September 27th, 2019. They were led by a sixteen-year-old girl.

By now many people know her name. Greta Thunberg. (Pronounced Greeta Tune-bearg) But fifty-eight weeks earlier, on August 20, 2018, she sat alone outside of the Swedish parliament with a hand-printed sign SKOLSTREJK FÖR KLIMATET.[1]. She was fifteen-years-old with Asperger's, and had spun into a deep depression when she learned about climate change. Inspired by the action Parkland students took in response the mass shooting at their school, Thunberg joined several different groups trying to find a way to act, and finally settle on what felt like the best course of action for herself.

The school strike.

None of the people planning actions around her were interested, but she knew this action was one she could do consistently. So she did it alone.

There is something very compelling about the bravery and persistence it took for this young woman to sit alone in front of her seat of government, week after week after week, in rain, and sun, and snow. It is inspiring and profoundly hopefully.

In September 2018 she invited other students to join her “FRIDAYS for the FUTURE” action by staging walkouts of their own[2].

By November, 17,000 students had walked out around Europe[3] and Thunberg began being invited to speak at high profile events including the UN climate talks in Poland. In her speeches to the UN, Davos, TedX, and others, Thunberg is always serious, intense, and clear about how she sees the threat to her future[4]. She has no time for politicians’ double speak, delays, and calls things as she sees them. She demands adults act on the science we already have in front of us.

Her UN speech went viral[5], and by February 2019, protests inspired by her action had sprung up in more than thirty countries worldwide. By March, an estimated two million students walked out of school, and in May, she was named one of TIME magazine’s most influential people of the year[6].

If you scroll through Thunberg’s Instagram these moments of public recognition punctuate a string of photos of her in front of the Swedish parliament. She returns to her post after her visits and her speeches and her appearances. It is clear the speeches and the train travel and the magazine shoots are not the point.

The school strike is everything.

The climate is everything. Engaging people to act to save the future is what matters.

Greta has given us all a great gift. We tend to judge marches and protests that make the news on one metric: Bigger is Better. But Greta has proven that is not the only way.

One person, committed to a belief, will make a difference, and can be heard.

One person can change the world.

[1] No. 62: Student Strike, No. 7: Slogans, caricatures, and symbols, and No. 8: Banners, posters, and displayed communications

[2] No. 5: Declarations of indictment and intention.

[3] No. 38: Marches

[4] No. 1 Public Speeches Video list above

[5] No. 11: Records, radio, and television

[6] No. 10: Newspapers and journals


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