BOSTON (CBS) – Time Magazine has named 16 year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg as their 2019 Person of the Year. Thunberg is the youngest person ever to receive the title, and unsurprisingly the magazine is getting some heat from people who say she doesn’t deserve it.
Thunberg morphed this year from a lonely protester to the iconic figurehead of a global movement of youth protest, along the lines of the tongue-lashing she gave officials at a UN climate summit in September when she said: “We are in the beginning of a mass extinction, and all you can talk about is the money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you!”
She was mocked on Twitter by President Trump for that, and her selection by Time drew more scorn from the right, including Donald Trump Jr., who tweeted: “Time leaves out the Hong Kong protesters fighting for their lives and freedoms to push a teen being used as a marketing gimmick. How dare you?”
The young rebels of Hong Kong were a finalist for the honor, but Thunberg’s lead role in sparking global agitation for action on climate change stood out to Time’s editors as an unusually-effective form of advocacy.
Critics have tried to patronize her; Fox News talking head Laura Ingraham called her “honey” and urged her to “go back to school, calm down, it’s all gonna be OK.”
But Thunberg has countered with fact-based, adult arguments, like this one in a recent speech: “Countries are finding clever ways around having to take real action, like double-counting emissions reductions, and moving their emissions overseas, and walking back on their promises to increase ambition, refusing to pay for solutions or loss and damage. This has to stop.”
Climate change skeptics don’t like it, and the adulation of Thunberg may seem over the top at times. But no one can deny that she has the courage of her convictions.
“I shouldn’t be up here,” she told the UN delegates. “I should be back in school on the other side of the ocean. Yet you all come to us young people for hope. How dare you! You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words.”
Keep in mind, the person of the year award has always been about creating buzz, and this one fits that bill.
But global unrest among the young and mounting anxiety over climate change were both major stories this year, and its no wonder Time saw Thunberg as a chance to capitalize on both of them.