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Greta Thunberg is TIME's Person of the Year

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Dec. 11 2019, Updated 11:29 a.m. ET

Just a year ago, no one outside of Sweden had even heard of Greta Thunberg. But after starting a climate strike outside of the parliament building in Stockholm, skipping school every Friday to do so, Thunberg has become a household name and become the de facto leader of the climate change movement.  

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The teenager recently spent two weeks traversing the Atlantic’s rough waters in the zero-emission Malizia II yacht to make it to the UN's Climate Action Summit which was held in New York in September. There, she met with world leaders and even former President Barack Obama.  

She also led millions of people from all around the world in a global climate strike to demand change. Organizers reported that more than 4 million people of all ages participated in the strikes worldwide, including 1.4 million in Germany.   

It's unsurprising then that TIME magazine today named Greta Thunberg their 2019 Person of the Year.  

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In an editorial, TIME explained why Thunberg is their Person of the Year:

"Thunberg is not a leader of any political party or advocacy group. She is neither the first to sound the alarm about the climate crisis nor the most qualified to fix it. She is not a scientist or a politician. She has no access to traditional levers of influence: she’s not a billionaire or a princess, a pop star or even an adult."

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"She is an ordinary teenage girl who, in summoning the courage to speak truth to power, became the icon of a generation. By clarifying an abstract danger with piercing outrage, Thunberg became the most compelling voice on the most important issue facing the planet."  

And Thunberg seems to have forced world leaders to listen.

“When you are a leader and every week you have young people demonstrating with such a message, you cannot remain neutral,” French President Emmanuel Macron told TIME. “They helped me change.” 

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“This moment does feel different,” former Vice President Al Gore told TIME. “Throughout history, many great morally based movements have gained traction at the very moment when young people decided to make that movement their cause.” 

“We can’t just continue living as if there was no tomorrow, because there is a tomorrow,” Thunberg said. “That is all we are saying.” 

While Thunberg has her fair share of critics, many Twitter users were happy about the announcement. "Called it! Really it could not be anyone else," one user wrote. "Utter inspiration. Ignore those who claim she is being used, it's complete nonsense." 

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Thunberg is currently in Madrid attending COP25, the UN's annual Climate Change Conference. The event was originally scheduled to be held in Santiago, Chile, but was moved because of widespread protests in the country over economic inequality and social problems. 

After the move, Thunberg had to set off on a second zero-carbon crossing of the Atlantic. The activist refuses to use planes to attend events because of their impact on the environment. 

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