Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg was named Time’s Person of the Year on Wednesday, becoming at 16 the youngest person to whom the U.S. magazine has given the title.
Greta emerged as the face of the youth climate movement after she started skipping school once a week to protest outside her country’s parliament. In the past 1½ years, she started the FridaysForFuture movement and has drawn large crowds at international conferences and demonstrations outside Sweden.
Some have welcomed Greta’s environmental activism. Others have criticized the teen’s sometimes-combative tone.
“For sounding the alarm about humanity’s predatory relationship with the only home we have, for bringing to a fragmented world a voice that transcends backgrounds and borders, for showing us all what it might look like when a new generation leads, Greta Thunberg is TIME’s 2019 Person of the Year,” the media franchise said Wednesday on its website.
Leaving a United Nations climate conference in Madrid, Spain, where she addressed negotiators Wednesday, Greta said she is “a bit surprised” by Time’s recognition, which she dedicated to all young activists.
Greta said she is hopeful the activists’ message of urgency — that governments need to drastically increase their efforts to combat climate change — is getting through.
She said the experience of the past 15 months, going from solo-protester outside the Swedish parliament to addressing world leaders at the U.N. General Assembly, had changed her.
“I think life is much more meaningful now that I have something to do that has an impact,” Greta said in a phone interview.
She plans to head home to Sweden for some rest during the holidays. “If you don’t take breaks, you won’t be able to continue,” she said.