Story at a glance

  • Swedish climate change activist Greta Thunberg was named Time Magazine’s 2019 person of the year.
  • The outspoken teen is the youngest person ever to receive the designation in the award’s 92-year history.
  • A reader’s choice poll that received some 27 million votes came to a different conclusion, instead naming the Hong Kong protestors the person of the year.

Time Magazine named 16-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg its 2019 person of the year this week. 

Thunberg did not appear to be on her way towards capturing the world’s attention when in August of 2018 she began skipping school to stake out Swedish Parliament in Stockholm with a black lettered sign that read: “School Strike for Climate.” 

Since then, she helped inspire 4 million people to join in the global climate strike on Sept. 20, 2019 — the largest climate protest ever. She has also gained audience with world leaders such as the pope, former President Barack Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, where she has delivered incisive, and at times outraged, pleas for meaningful action on climate change. 

“Adults keep saying, ‘We owe it to the young people to give them hope,’” Thunberg said in January at the World Economic Forum. “But I don’t want your hope. I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act.”

The climate strike that Thunberg helped galvanize has since been codified by the Collins Dictionary, which named “climate strike” its word of the year

The Swedish teen also started Fridays for Future, local or global strikes that have drawn the participation of thousands of children from around the world.

In September, she crossed the Atlantic via an emissions-free boat to lessen the carbon footprint of her journey to deliver a speech in New York at the United Nations Climate Change Action Summit. In November, she yet again set sail to return to Europe in advance of the United Nations Climate Change conference in Madrid. 

Edward Felsenthal, Time’s editor in chief, told the New York Times Thunberg was the magazine’s youngest ever person of the year. Felsenthal lauded Thunberg for “sounding the alarm about humanity’s predatory relationship with the only home we have, for bringing to a fragmented world a voice that transcends backgrounds and borders” and for “showing us all what it might look like when a new generation leads.”

A separate poll conducted by the magazine asking readers to vote for their choice for person of the year came to a different conclusion, instead making the Hong Kong protesters the readers’ choice for Time’s 2019 person of the year. Last year the title went to Jamal Khashoggi and other journalists.

Published on Dec 11, 2019