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Get to know Greta: Five things you should know about the climate activist

Climate activist Greta Thunberg pictured here in Sweden in July 2021.

Three years ago, an unknown Swedish teenager skipped school, sat down outside parliament – and inadvertently kicked off a global movement.

Greta Thunberg was a lonely figure when she started her school strike for the climate in August 2018.

Her parents tried to dissuade her and classmates declined to join as she sat on the street with a hand-painted banner.

Now three years on, the picture could not be more different.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon meets with climate activists Greta Thunberg and Vanessa Nakate at Cop26.

Over the next two weeks, Greta will be bumping elbows with world leaders at the Cop26 climate conference in Glasgow.

But apart from her famous steely-eyed look and long braids, what should we know about the 18-year-old environmental activist?

We’re all pronouncing her name wrong

Greta Tintin Eleonora Ernman Thunberg was born in Stockholm in 2003.

Her mother, Malena Ernman, is one of Sweden’s most celebrated opera singers (and a former Eurovision contestant) while her father, Svante Thunberg, is an actor and author.

But while Greta has become increasingly well known outside of Sweden, the true pronunciation of her name has become lost in the fray.

Here, we ask a native Swedish speaker to set the record straight. Listen below to how it should be pronounced in Greta’s home country.

She’s a social media sensation

The Swedish activist hasn’t got an official website. However, she manages three official social media accounts on Facebook (@gretathunbergsweden), Instagram (@gretathunberg), and Twitter (@gretathunberg).

The best part is, she doesn’t mince her words when it comes to saying what she thinks.

No world leader or major celebrity is safe from Greta’s climate-critical eye, and she is unafraid of pointing out their hypocrisies to her millions of followers.

Perhaps her most famous online interaction has been with Donald Trump.

In a December 2019 insult, Trump told Greta to work on her “anger management problem” and to “go to an old-fashioned movie with a friend”.

“Chill Greta, chill!” the president chided her in the tweet.

Nearly a year later when Trump was raging on Twitter over allegations of voter fraud, Greta threw his words straight back at him.

“So ridiculous,” Thunberg tweeted in reply to Trump’s earlier “STOP THE COUNT!” rant.

“Donald must work on his Anger Management problem, then go to a good old-fashioned movie with a friend! Chill Donald, Chill!”

The public loved it.

She has a ‘superpower’

Often, people can be embarrassed by anything which marks them different from others, but Greta’s differences may just be the reason behind her success.

She has Asperger’s syndrome, which means she doesn’t operate on the same emotional scale as many of the people she meets.

She dislikes crowds; ignores small talk; and speaks in direct, uncomplicated sentences.

Greta Thunberg is not concerned with trying to make those around her feel comfortable with the state of the planet.

But these very qualities have helped make her a global sensation. Where others smile to make others feel more comfortable, Greta is withering.

Where others speak exclusively of hope, Greta repeats the undisputable science: Oceans will rise. Cities will flood. Millions will suffer.

“I have Asperger’s syndrome, and that means I’m sometimes a bit different from the norm,” she famously said. “And – given the right circumstances – being different is a superpower.”

The youngest ever Time winner

Just a year after beginning her strike, Greta Thunberg was named Time’s Person of the Year 2019.

The US news magazine Time has run the award since 1927, in which the organization celebrates a person who “for better or for worse… has done the most to influence the events of the year”.

Greta is the youngest ever winner and joined a start studded line up – past winners include various popes, US presidents, Gandhi and even the Queen.

Greta – who has rebuffed other awards in the past – accepted this nomination from Time “on behalf of climate activists everywhere”.

She has also been nominated twice for the Nobel Peace Prize, although has so far lost out.

She didn’t get ‘officially’ invited to Cop26

Greta was mobbed by supporters as she arrived in Glasgow ahead of the conference.

She is expected to participate in various climate change rallies during the two-week summit in Glasgow, and is due to speak at a protest taking place on Saturday.

Curiously however, Greta previously said she had not received an official invitation to the conference.

Speaking to the BBC’s Andrew Marr, she was asked whether she had been asked to join.

“I don’t know. It’s very unclear. Not officially,” she said.

She added: “I think that many people might be scared that if they invite too many radical young people, then that might make them look bad.”

Greta’s overall message? Those in power must act with urgency if we are to change the course of the climate crisis.

And she might be right.

The Swedish environmental campaigner participated in Cop25 in 2019 and famously addressed the audience by saying “the real danger is when politicians and CEOs are making it look like real action is happening when, in fact, almost nothing is being done apart from clever accounting and creative PR.”

Time will tell if she is as critical of this year’s meeting.