Climate change activist Khadija Khokhar on Tuesday said that Greta Thunberg has become a lightning rod for the issue because the Swedish teen activist is viewed by so many as a threat.
“Greta [Thunberg] being the face of this issue terrifies so many people,” Khokhar, an organizer with #FridaysForFuture school strike movement, told Hill.TV in reference to how Thunberg has helped spark several youth climate strike events around the world.
Thunberg started #FridaysForFuture climate strikes on her own last year by sitting in front of the Swedish Parliament to protest her own country’s inaction on climate change. She has since become a leading face of the movement to address the issue.
Khokhar argued that much of the attention on Thunberg is due to how young the 16-year-old activist is, saying “everyone sees her as a puppet.”
“They don’t see her as the powerful person she is but rather they see her as someone who is trying to create change, which is terrifying,” she said.
Khokhar’s comments come after Thunberg made an impassioned plea to world leaders at United National General Assembly climate summit in New York City this week.
Thunberg, who traveled to the U.S. one an emissions-free sailboat, accused world leaders of stealing “my dreams and my childhood with your empty words.”
A clip of her speech later went viral, prompting both praise and criticism.
Several 2020 Democratic presidential hopefuls, including Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) and former Texas congressman Beto O’Rourke (D), applauded the young activist’s speech.
“What a disgrace that it takes a 16-year-old to tell world leaders what they won’t acknowledge: We cannot continue with this type of ruthless capitalism that is destroying our planet,” Sanders tweeted on Monday.
President Trump, meanwhile, took a different tact, appearing to mock the Swedish teen climate activist.
“She seems like a very happy young girl looking forward to a bright and wonderful future,” he tweeted in response to a clip of her speech at the summit. “So nice to see!”
— Tess Bonn