Greta Thunberg Says Activism Helped Her Overcome Depression: 'I Saw That Everything Was So Wrong'

"I think the lowest depth of misery is when you're too depressed to see that you yourself actually matter," says Greta Thunberg, according to I Know This to Be True: Greta Thunberg

Greta Thunberg
Greta Thunberg. Photo: Greta Thunberg/Instagram

Teen climate change activist Greta Thunberg was selected to be part of I Know This to Be True — a book series featuring interviews with modern world leaders. In her book, the 17-year-old Swede discusses the urgent change she wants to see in the world and explains how activism helped her climb out of a dark depression.

“I think the lowest depth of misery is when you’re too depressed to see that you yourself actually matter,” Thunberg says, according to I Know This to Be True: Greta Thunberg.

The book is one in a series in which history-making figures answer the same questions and give hard-earned advice on life and leadership.Other leaders in the series, which was released Tuesday, include Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, basketball player Stephen Curry, lawyer Bryan Stevenson, famed feminist Gloria Steinem and iconic South African leader Nelson Mandela (whose answers were gathered posthumously from quotes in past interviews).

“I think my concern about the environment and climate change began in school, when I was maybe 8 or 9-years-old,” Thunberg explains, according to the book. “I saw and heard these horrible stories about what humans had done to the environment, and what we were doing to the climate, that the climate was changing… I just couldn’t understand how we could just continue not caring about this.”


She continues: “I became depressed. I saw that everything was so wrong, and nothing mattered. How I got out of that depression was by thinking to myself, ‘I can do so much, one person can do so much. And so I should try to do everything I can to change things, instead of just doing nothing.'”

Thunberg is one of many voices raising the alarm about climate change. In December 2019, the World Meteorological Organization released its yearly report on the state of the global climate. The organization’s secretary general, Petteri Taalas, summarized it with a dire warning when he spoke to the New York Times.

“Things are getting worse,” he told the newspaper. “It’s more urgent than ever to proceed with mitigation.”

Major changes will be required in order to reduce emissions and save the planet, he said. “The only solution is to get rid of fossil fuels in power production, industry and transportation,” Taalas told the paper.

While Thunberg doesn’t have the power of a government behind her, for years she’s fought for change on the social level. Her solo school-day strike outside the Swedish parliament in August 2018 gained global attention and her activism has inspired hundreds of similar climate strikes around the world as part of the Fridays for Future campaign. She’s graced the cover of Time magazine, sparred with President Donald Trump over Twitter, and was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for her fight to lower carbon emissions.

Time person of the year: Greta Thunberg

RELATED VIDEO: Greta Thunberg Speaks at the Climate Action Summit in New York

Since Thunberg’s rise to fame, she’s become more open about her struggles as a young teen. During her November 2018 TEDTalk, Thunberg explained that depression set in when she was 11, during which time she stopped talking and eating, and lost 22 lbs. in two months.

In I Know This to Be True, the activist explains what makes her happy now.

“My dogs make me happy! And when something is happening — like when change is coming, or happening,” she said, per the book. “For example, when I see children school-striking, that makes me happy. To look through the internet and just see millions of children who are school-striking for the climate — that makes me happy as well.”

Thunberg also explains what changes need to occur to save the planet.

“I have a dream: that governments, political parties and corporations grasp the urgency of the climate and ecological crisis and come together despite their differences — as you would in an emergency — and take the measures required to safeguard the conditions for a dignified life for everybody on earth,” she writes in the book’s prologue. “Because then, we millions of school-striking youth could go back to school.”

Thunberg continues: “I have a dream that the people in power, as well as the media, start treating this crisis like the existential emergency it is. So that I could go home to my sister and my dogs. Because I miss them.”

The I Know This to Be True series, made in collaboration with the Nelson Mandela Foundation, is on sale now.

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