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Greta Thunberg

Gap year’s over for Greta Thunberg – climate activist heads back to school

The 17-year-old school strike instigator returns after dozens of addresses, world leader talks, awards, and protests

Greta Thunberg is officially back at school. The Swedish environmental activist had taken a year off to travel the world with her climate activism, studying remotely as she raised awareness around climate change, galvanised young people, and angered Donald Trump (a lot).

“My gap year from school is over, and it feels so great to finally be back in school again!” the 17-year-old tweeted yesterday alongside a photograph of herself on a bike with her school bag. 

Thunberg has packed a lot into the past year. In mid-August she set off across the Atlantic Ocean in a zero emission sailing boat, powered by solar panels and underwater turbines. She then conducted a climate demonstration tour across America, joining protests, meeting with state lawmakers, and speaking at the United Nations Climate Action Summit in New York. 

Her efforts have seen some groundbreaking change. The “Greta effect”, as it has been dubbed, has seen an increase in online activism among young people. She also won a Right Livelihood Award (AKA the “alternative Nobel Prize”), was named TIME’s Person Of The Year, had a beetle named after her, and a poem written for her by Patti Smith for her birthday.

Last month, Thunberg co-authored an open letter with other climate activists and school strikers which was sent to all EU leaders and heads of state. Figures including Billie Eilish, Leonardo DiCaprio and Björk signed the letter alongside thousands of scientists and activists. She was also awarded the €1 million (£902k) Gulbenkian Prize for Humanity which she will be donating to different organisations and projects who are working to help people affected by the climate and ecological crisis.

The activist has also been vocal about coronavirus, imploring people to take it seriously and rebuking politicians for their lacklustre response to the pandemic. Speaking to CNN, Thunberg urged people to consider the “most vulnerable” who will be hit hardest by the virus, “especially in the global south, people in the poorest parts of the world, especially people living in conflict zones and refugee camps”.