Teen Greta Thunberg sails across Atlantic for 15 days to join climate meet

Greta Thunberg, Teenager, Fridays For Future, climate change, United Nations summit, Atlantic ocean
Greta Thunberg, a teen climate activist, completed a 15-day journey across the Atlantic ocean on a zero-emissions yacht to a attend a climate change summit, since she refused to go by flights that would result in carbon emissions. Photo: Facebook.

Teenage climate campaigner Greta Thunberg said that the “war on nature must end” and called on US President Donald Trump to listen to science after she sailed to New York on a zero-emissions yacht on Wednesday (August 28).

The 16-year-old completed a 15-day journey across the Atlantic shortly after 4:00 pm (2000 GMT), stepping off the boat onto a Manhattan dock to cheering crowds chanting her name.

“It is devastating and so horrible. It’s hard to imagine. They are a clear sign that we need to stop destroying nature,” she told the waiting reporters when asked how she felt about the raging fires in the Amazon, the world’s largest rainforest.

The Swede also rebuked Trump, a notorious climate change skeptic. “My message for him is ‘listen to the science’ and he obviously doesn’t do that,” she said, as she brought her environmental message to the United States for the first time. Thunberg poked fun at the president too by saying she was “pretty sure” windmills don’t cause cancer, in reference to a comment Trump made at a Republican fundraising event in April.

The teenager has become a symbol for climate action with her stark warnings of catastrophe if the world does not act now to cut carbon emissions and curb global warming. Thunberg, who was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome at the age of 12, began sitting outside the Swedish parliament in August 2018 to get members to act on climate change.

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She was quickly joined by other students around the world, as word of her strike spread through the media, and the “Fridays for future” movement was born. She will attend a summit on zero emissions at the United Nations next month but refused to fly to the summit because of the carbon emissions caused by planes.

The Swede was offered a ride on the Malizia II racing yacht skippered by Pierre Casiraghi, the son of Monaco’s Princess Caroline, and German round-the-world sailor Boris Herrmann. Thunberg has received criticism and abuse for her uncompromising attitude, however.

Her voyage sparked controversy after a spokesman for co-skipper Herrmann told Berlin newspaper TAZ that several people would fly into New York to help take the yacht back to Europe. Hermann himself will also return by plane, according to the spokesman.

Team Malizia’s manager insisted, though, that the young activist’s journey would be climate neutral, as the flights would “be offset.” A few hundred well-wishers and activists clapped and chanted, “Greta, Greta, Greta,” as she completed her 3,000-nautical-mile (5,550 kilometers) trip under overcast skies.

She passed the Statue of Liberty and headed up the Hudson River before docking at North Cove Marina near the World Trade Center. The United Nations sent a flotilla of 17 sailboats, one for each of its sustainable development goals for 2030, to welcome her.

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Thunberg endured rough seas and cramped conditions but said that she never felt seasick once. She ate freeze-dried food and used a bucket as a toilet.

“It’s insane that a 16-year-old has to cross the Atlantic Ocean to make a stand. This, of course, is not something that I want everyone to do,” she said, smiling. Thunberg added that she planned to rest before joining youngsters striking outside the UN on Friday.

The Malizia II yacht left Plymouth in southern England on August 14, and the teenager marked the first anniversary of the start of her school strike on August 20. The 18-meter yacht features state-of-the-art solar panels on its deck and sides, and two hydro generators provide the vessel’s electricity.

It can travel at speeds of around 35 knots (70 kilometers an hour). Thunberg has said that she does not yet know how she will return to Europe. Ahead of the UN summit on September 23, Thunberg will take part in youth demonstrations, before heading to Canada, Mexico and then to Chile for another UN conference in December.