For five years, Greta Thunberg has spent her Fridays in front of the Swedish Parliament in Stockholm instead of in class; after 251 weeks, she is hanging up her cardboard protest sign — as a student.
What began as a 15-year-old with a singular message has spread into a global movement across 7,500 cities.
Ms. Thunberg, an activist who has inspired young people around the world to demand action against climate change, graduated from high school on Friday in Sweden, signifying what she said would be her final school strike.
“When I started striking in 2018 I could never have expected that it would lead to anything,” she wrote on Twitter. “We’re still here, and we aren’t planning on going anywhere.”
In her five years on the world stage, Ms. Thunberg has rallied her peers; written three books; faced off against former President Donald J. Trump; and excoriated economic leaders in Davos, Switzerland, for the “climate chaos” they created, as well as world leaders at the United Nations for their “business as usual” approach toward global warming.
Ms. Thunberg said she planned to continue protesting on Fridays but because of her graduation, it would no longer qualify as “school striking.”
Sweden requires children to attend school between the ages of 6 and 16. Most Swedish students complete their upper secondary studies at 19; Ms. Thunberg, who is 20, took a year off to focus on her work, including taking a sailboat across the Atlantic Ocean to speak at the U.N.
Ms. Thunberg began striking in 2018, when she demonstrated every day for three weeks with a small group of students outside of the Swedish Parliament. They decided to continue holding protests every Friday, eventually creating the group Fridays For Future.
“I look at the people in power and wonder how they have made things so complicated,” she wrote in an essay for The Guardian that November. “I hear people saying that climate change is an existential threat, yet I watch as people carry on like nothing is happening. We can no longer save the world by playing by the rules because the rules have to be changed.”
Ms. Thunberg’s voice as a young student offered clarity and urgency — and people listened.
Her activism paved the way for a day of youth-led climate protests on every continent in 2019. Organizers estimated the turnout to be around four million people across thousands of cities and towns worldwide. It was the first time children and young people had demonstrated to demand climate action en masse.
In February, Ms. Thunberg told The New York Times that “the world is getting more and more grim every day.” On the flip side, she said, “we have more people now who are mobilized and who are in the climate movement, in the fight for the climate and social justice.”
That sentiment continued to ring true on her graduation day. Ms. Thunberg said on Twitter that “much has changed since we started,” but that there was still a long way to go.
“We are still moving in the wrong direction, where those in power are allowed to sacrifice marginalised and affected people and the planet in the name of greed, profit and economic growth,” she wrote, adding that the world was approaching “tipping points beyond our control.”
It was not immediately clear whether Ms. Thunberg would enroll in a university. She could not immediately be reached for comment.
But she recognized her fellow graduates who, like her, “now wonder what kind of future it is that we are stepping into, even though we did not cause this crisis.”
She said they had “a duty” to continue to speak up.
“In order to change everything, we need everyone,” she wrote. “We simply have no other option than to do everything we possibly can. The fight has only just begun.”