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Swedish teen takes climate activism to jet-setters in Davos

January 23, 2019
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16 year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg arrives to attend the 49th Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum, WEF, in Davos, Switzerland, Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2019. (Valentin Flauraud/Keystone via AP)

DAVOS, Switzerland (AP) — There aren’t many people who spend 32 hours on a train to get to the World Economic Forum in the Swiss ski resort of Davos and plan to sleep in a tent.

Someone who did is 16-year-old Swedish schoolgirl Greta Thunberg, who received clearance to miss her classes in Stockholm to push climate change to the top of the agenda of the global elites who attend the event.

Thunberg has become her generation’s voice on climate change after inspiring students around the world to go on strike as a way of communicating their anger and angst over global warming.

After arriving in Davos on Wednesday, she said she traveled to the Alps to “spread the message to people that we are in a crisis and we must take action now.”

Thunberg will be speaking directly to the corporate leaders, politicians, intellectuals and other kinds of influential people the Forum attract. She said her youth may help convince those she needs to convince.

“I think they feel guilty,” the teenager said.

Since she started her school strike campaign last year by skipping school every week to demonstrate outside Sweden’s parliament, her example has inspired peers around the world.

“I never would have imagined that it was going to be this big and spread so far that there is now a school strike going on in every continent except Antarctica, and that is very cool and very incredible,” Thunberg said. “Just this last week, there were over 12,500 students on school strike in Brussels and over 22,000 in Switzerland and over 30,000 in Germany.”

Last month, she went to Poland for the United Nations’ yearly conference on climate change and addressed adult audiences, just like she plans to do in Switzerland.

Yet many classmates seem unaware of Thunberg’s status on the global stage, she said.

“I don’t think most of them know what I’m doing, but sometimes they come up to me and say why do I have so many followers on Instagram,” she said.

Though she’s keen to engage with the elites, Thunberg doesn’t seem like the kind of person to back down in expressing her views. The teen, who gave up airplane flights around four years to practice what she preaches, condemned Davos attendees who come by private jet.

“I think it’s a bit of hypocrisy that they go here by private jets and talk about the climate crisis and they say that ‘Oh we care about this very much’ but they obviously don’t,” Thunberg said in an interview with The Associated Press on Wednesday.

What’s next for Thunberg? Well apart from going back to school, more of the same, it seems.

“My next ambition is to sit outside the Swedish parliament every Friday until Sweden is in line with the Paris agreement” to curb global warming, she said. “That might take a while.”

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