In a remarkably short span, Greta Thunberg’s solitary climate strike in Sweden has become a global movement. For her efforts to shake the world out of its lazy reverie and quickly act on climate change, Thunberg has been nominated for this year’s Nobel Peace Prize.
Thunberg’s school strike for climate change began in August last year, when she was 15. She sat outside parliament with signs and handed out pamphlets to adults explaining her protest succinctly: “I am doing this because you adults are shitting on my future.”
But rather than being a scream into a void, her protest drew increasing attention from other youth fed up with climate inaction and adults in positions of power, as a major movement sprung up from nothing in half a year. For that and the potential of that movement to change history, Thunberg has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.
“We have proposed Greta Thunberg because if we do nothing to halt climate change it will be the cause of wars, conflict and refugees,” Norwegian Socialist MP Freddy André Øvstegård told the Guardian. “Greta Thunberg has launched a mass movement which I see as a major contribution to peace.”
Lawmakers are among a handful of groups who can submit nominations that are then evaluated by the Norwegian Nobel Committee, which hands out the Nobel Peace Prize. This year, the committee received 301 nominations, which it keeps under wraps for 50 years, though obviously nominators are free to make an announcement. The committee is the in process of creating a shortlist and will choose a laureate in October.
Past winners have included people working on climate change and young adults. In 2007, Al Gore and the authors of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s landmark report won for, according to the committee, “their efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change, and to lay the foundations for the measures that are needed to counteract such change.” In 2014, Pakistani youth activist Malala Yousafzai took home the prize for her commitment in the “struggle against the suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education.”
Thunberg’s efforts fall somewhere between these two, having emerged as a now 16-year old version of Cassandra, at once laying out the catastrophe of climate change and castigating adults in power for doing very little to stop it. An organic movement of strikers has grown behind her, with massive protests in Europe and Australia. On Friday, a projected million students will walk out on classes because of climate inaction, including the first major demonstration of its kind in the U.S.
Thunberg has emerged as an inspiration to students while also delivering blistering critiques of climate inaction at international climate talks last year and a meeting of the world’s elite in Davos this year. A Nobel Peace Prize could help add momentum, but then the end goal of the strike movement isn’t winning accolades. It’s about a livable planet.