Teenage climate activist nominated for Nobel Peace Prize

Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg gestures as she attends a protest rally in Hamburg, Germany, on Friday, March 1.

MONTPELIER — The 16-year-old Swedish girl leading a worldwide climate change rally today, including one in Montpelier, has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Greta Thunberg, figurehead of the Youth Strike for Climate movement, was nominated for the prize Thursday afternoon. Her protests have inspired students across the globe to go on strike March 15 to demand politicians take action on climate, jobs and justice.

High-schoolers from Montpelier and U-32 will march to the State House tomorrow afternoon in conjunction with protests in more than 100 other countries. Students in Middlebury, Brattleboro, Woodstock and other Vermont communities also are expected to participate, according to climate justice organization 350Vermont.

Also on Friday in Montpelier, representatives from Sens. Bernie Sanders and Patrick Leahy will host a town hall-style meeting on climate change from 10 a.m. to noon in Room 11 at the State House, and the Green New Deal for Vermont will host another open forum from 1 to 4 p.m, also in Room 11. In between, students will march to the State House steps to make speeches.

Montpelier High School senior and student rally organizer Emma Harter, 18, was excited to learn Thunberg was nominated ahead of Friday’s student march.

“It is particularly justified that a young person has been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize in the name of combating climate change,” Harter said. “We’ve inherited a global environment that has been disrespected and abused for generations.”

Harter said Thunberg’s nomination could empower students by demonstrating climate change is “approachable and, hopefully, solvable.”

Gwendolyn Hallsmith, one of the co-conveners for the Green New Deal of Vermont, said the nomination only creates more significance for today’s event.

“It’s really exciting that other students around Vermont are following her lead and walking out,” Hallsmith said. “I think it will be bigger than people imagine it.

“If the word (about Thunberg’s nomination) can get out, I think it will make all the students that are standing up for what’s right feel that much better about what they’re doing,” Hallsmith continued.

Thunberg began her movement last August, when she started skipping school every Friday to protest in front of the Swedish parliament to demand policies in line with the Paris climate accord. She told The Guardian she learned about climate change at age 8, and it drew her into a depression.

“I kept thinking about it, and I just wondered if I am going to have a future,” she told the newspaper.

The teenager, who was once diagnosed with selective mutism, has gone on to speak in front of thousands at climate rallies. Thousands more are expected to join her today.

Thunberg is one of 301 candidates for the prize, the Guardian reported.

“Honoured and very grateful for this nomination,” Thunberg tweeted Thursday afternoon, appending a heart emoji.

Harter said it’s vital young people address climate change on a local level and had a message for Vermont’s political leaders.

“If we do not take drastic action today, adapting to the inevitable impacts of climate change will be more difficult and costly,” she said.

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