Iconic publication TIME named vegan climate activist Greta Thunberg its “Person of the Year” for 2019, making the 16-year-old the youngest person to ever hold the title in its 92-year history. The youngest person to previously hold the title was aviation pioneer Charles Lindbergh at 25 years old in 1927 as TIME’s first “Person of the Year.” TIME chose Thunberg due to her unrelenting drive to promote climate action worldwide. Last year, Thunberg skipped school in her native Sweden to hold a one-person protest to bring awareness about the climate crisis. Since then, the activist—who ditched air transport and animal products—has inspired millions of young people around the world to take climate action with her “Fridays For Future” protests. Thunberg is now known for her powerful speeches that condemn political leaders for failing to take action to halt the climate crisis. “Meaningful change rarely happens without the galvanizing force of influential individuals, and in 2019, the earth’s existential crisis found one in Greta Thunberg,” TIME Editor-in-Chief Edward Felsenthal wrote. Felsenthal explained that Thunberg represents a new generation of changemakers, those who are outside of the scope of what he described as “the Great Man theory of history,” that honors men who achieve success within a corporate setting. “But in this moment when so many traditional institutions seem to be failing us, amid staggering inequality and social upheaval and political paralysis, we are seeing new kinds of influence take hold,” Falsenthal wrote. “It is wielded by people like Thunberg, leaders with a cause and a phone who don’t fit the old rubrics but who connect with us in ways that institutions can’t and perhaps never could.” Earlier this year, Thunberg was selected as the recipient of the Environment Prize by the Nordic Council, an award (and $54,000 cash prize) she respectfully declined to shift focus back onto fighting the climate crisis.
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