Greta Thunberg has ‘special needs’ - she needs you to wake up to the horrors of climate change

16-year-old Greta Thunburg is not your average teen. In August of last year, Greta decided to strike from school until the Swedish government agreed to reduce carbon emissions in line with the Paris Agreement. Greta protested daily outside the Riksdag with a sign reading Skolstrejk för klimatet - school strike for the climate.

Inspired by her activism, School Strike 4 Climate has become a global movement for teens desperately frustrated by world-wide governmental inaction regarding what they perceive as the biggest crises facing their generation. School Strike 4 Climate has seen protests in up in 270 cities to date, with over 20,000 teens striking in the last 7 months alone.

When asked how she did it – inspire a movement from one humble action – Greta has been clear: her autism makes her see things differently.

Interviewer: You’ve been open about having Asperger’s (Autism). How has that informed your activism?

Greta: I think it has affected everything. Because if I didn’t have Asperger’s, and if I wasn’t so strange, I would have been stuck in this social game that everyone else seems to be so infatuated with.

It makes me function a bit differently, I see the world in a different way, with a different perspective. And I think that if I didn’t have it, I wouldn’t have been able to see it from the outside. I see things as very black and white. People say, oh nothing is black and white. But the climate question is very black and white….we have to stop the emissions. 1

Biodiversity is known to be a function of species protection; might neurodiversity be the same? Each cognitive difference may have its own special markers, but we tend to pathologise these to form diagnostic criteria. Shifting awareness towards a cultural model of social value requires us to acknowledge the gifts of many children we find difficult to accommodate in our schools and workplaces.

Greta Thunberg has ‘special needs’ – she needs us to wake up to the horrors of climate change.


1.     Skavlan Talkshow January 2019