Every year, hundreds of individuals and organizations are nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in recognition for their activism. This year, 301 candidates will be considered for 2019. One of them would make history as the youngest winner ever if she receives the prize. It’s Greta Thunberg, a 16-year old Swedish climate activist. Why does she deserve to win? There are five compelling reasons:
- Although she’s young, she’s dedicated her life to the issue of climate change
While most teenagers are focused on their friends and schoolwork, Greta Thunberg spends her time advocating for action on climate change. This is not a recent issue for the 16-year old either; at TEDxStockholm in November 2018, she recalled being eight years old when she first learned about climate change and its effects. Confused about why the issue wasn’t headline news all over the world, Greta dedicated herself to spreading awareness.
At 15, she took a sign that read “SCHOOL STRIKE FOR CLIMATE,” and stood outside the Swedish parliament building. While that would have been the biggest step for many people, Greta continued her strikes every Friday. Her dedication earned international attention, but that has not changed how she lives her life. In January, she traveled to Davos by train, which took 32 hours. Many delegates go by private jets, but not Greta. She’s more than willing to sacrifice for the cause.
- She’s influential on a massive scale
Greta’s activism has not gone unnoticed. Her powerful speeches and commitment have gripped the world and her influence extends far past Sweden’s borders. Inspired by Greta’s school strikes, students around the world walked out of their classrooms on Friday, March 15. According to New Scientist, the number of high school strikers went up to the thousands, and took place in over 100 countries.
One of those strikers, 13-year old Alexandria Villasenor, took Greta’s example to heart and skipped school every Friday for 11 weeks, standing outside the UN headquarters in New York. Alexandria also serves a leader in the US Youth Climate Strike organization. They’ve planned another strike for May 3rd.
Greta has inspired more than just protests, however; her activism has long-term effects. According to the deputy director of Alliance for Climate Education, it was Greta who got Jean-Claude Juncker of the EU to dedicate every fourth Euro spent between 2021-27 to climate action.
- She’s inspiration for young people to overcome adversity
It’s a hard world out there, especially for young people. When they try to speak out, they’re often silenced or mocked by adults who don’t take them seriously. Greta isn’t just facing a world that’s hard for teens, she’s also dealing with a handful of diagnoses that are often stigmatized. In 2018, she revealed that she is ADHD and OCD, and has been diagnosed with Asperger syndrome and selective mutism. In her words, that means she “only speaks when (she) thinks it’s necessary.” A natural introvert, she is pushing back against her instincts for a greater cause. She even sees Asperger’s in particular as a gift, because it lead her to the simple, non-social action of camping outside Parliament. Her quiet, independent resilience struck people in a unique way. She’s proving to young people facing their own struggles that anything is possible.
- She’s right that climate change is the world’s most pressing issue
The significance of climate change is gravely overlooked by the global media and lawmakers. Considering that the science is essentially settled – humans are driving climate change – and that it’s getting worse at an accelerating pace, awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to a climate activist will draw much-needed attention to the issue. People will hopefully see how climate change effects the food and water supply, threatens human health, and leads to worsening cycles of poverty, inequality, and war. Greta is so passionate about climate change because she knows if it isn’t dealt with, the welfare of her generation’s children and grandchildren will be severely threatened. If she wins, Greta would be only the second climate activist recognized with the award. The first was Al Gore and the IPCC in 2007.
- She represents the future
Awarding Greta Thunberg with the Nobel Peace Prize isn’t just about honoring an individual. It would show the world that young people like her matter. It’s about time the world realized that. Student-led organizations and protests have always been essential to every movement, but they’re often underrated. When Parkland students set aside the usual script and began speaking out against gun violence, much of the media didn’t know what to make of them. The kids stood their ground, however, and made some real changes like getting Dick’s Sporting Goods to stop selling assault-style rifles.
There are countless other young people standing up for their beliefs, whether it’s a celebrity like Millie Bobby Brown becoming UNICEF’s youngest Goodwill ambassador or groups like Kids Cut Conflict Palm Oil getting PepsiCo to change a supplier. Of course, we can’t forget Malala Yousafzay, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014. If Greta wins, she would join Malala as a shining example of what young people can do, and help dismiss the outdated belief that young voices don’t matter.