Greta Thunberg at 18: ‘I’m not telling anyone what to do’

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Greta Thunberg says she has stopped buying new clothes but does not sit in judgment on others whose lifestyle choices are less environmentally friendly than her own, in an interview to mark her 18th birthday.

Thunberg, whose solo school strike in 2018 snowballed into a global youth movement, stopped flying several years ago, travelling instead by boat. She is vegan and said she had stopped consuming “things” .

Asked what she thought of celebrities who talk about the climate emergency while flying around the world, the teenager declined to criticise them, although warned that others might.

“I don’t care,” she told the Sunday Times magazine. “I’m not telling anyone else what to do, but there is a risk when you are vocal about these things and don’t practise as you preach, then you will become criticised for that and what you are saying won’t be taken seriously.”

Avoiding long flights is one of the most effective ways individuals can reduce their carbon emissions but the biggest impact is from not having children, according to studies. Nevertheless Thunberg was not about to tell people not to procreate. “I don’t think it’s selfish to have children,” she said. “It is not the people who are the problem, it is our behaviour.”

While her lifestyle is far removed from that of most western teenagers, Thunberg says she does not feel she is missing out.

On clothes, she said: “The worst-case scenario I guess I’ll buy second-hand, but I don’t need new clothes. I know people who have clothes, so I would ask them if I could borrow them or if they have something they don’t need any more. I don’t need to fly to Thailand to be happy. I don’t need to buy clothes I don’t need, so I don’t see it as a sacrifice.”

Thunberg was famously told to “chill” by Donald Trump but she said her passion and concern about the environment did not get her down. “I don’t sit and speculate about how the future might turn out, I see no use in doing that,” she said. “As long as you are doing everything you can now, you can’t let yourself become depressed or anxious.”

She named her ideal birthday present as a “promise from everyone that they will do everything they can” for the planet. However, when pressed on a more tangible gift, she opted for replacement headlights for her bike, explaining: “In Sweden, it gets very dark in the winter.”

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