This Day In History: December 11

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On December 11, 2019, 16-year-old Greta Thunberg is named Time magazine's Person of the Year. The Swedish climate activist became the first Person of the Year to be born in the 21st century and the youngest ever to receive the honor.

Thunberg took to activism early, convincing her parents to become vegans, reduce their carbon footprint and avoid flying. In 2018, inspired by teenage gun control activists in the United States, she began a school strike that spread across Sweden and to other European countries. Before long, Thunberg was giving speeches throughout Europe and had become one of the most recognizable faces of climate activism. Thunberg delivered her message with a sense of urgency—"Our house is on fire," she said—that struck a chord with the public, particularly because it came from a child.

In August 2019, Thunberg sailed a solar-powered racing yacht across the Atlantic Ocean to promote carbon-neutral transit. After arriving in New York, she testified before the United States Congress and the U.N. Climate Action Summit, where she was characteristically blunt: "You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words. And yet I'm one of the lucky ones. People are suffering. People are dying. Entire ecosystems are collapsing. We are in the beginning of a mass extinction. And all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you!"

Though Thunberg's message and mannerisms offended many on the right, her activism has made waves the world over. The Time cover announcing her as Person of the Year also touted "The Power of Youth," presaging the advent of the Sunrise Movement and other youth-led climate activism in the United States and across the world.