To say climate activist Greta Thunberg has made waves in the past year would be somewhat of an understatement. For the Swedish teenager, what began as a lone protest at her country’s Parliament morphed into a sweeping environmental movement. Further, youth across the globe have been emboldened to stand with Thunberg against climate inaction and ignorance.
Following Thunberg’s rise to prominence, she has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, among other awards, for her activism. Additionally, several major forums and conferences with important global leaders have invited her to speak. This September, she is poised to speak at the UN climate summit in New York.
To get there? Thunberg will travel by sailboat.
Greta Thunberg will board a solar-powered racing yacht
The sixteen-year-old recently set sail for a two-week voyage on a solar-powered yacht. Accompanying Thunberg on her journey are two professional skippers, her father, and a documentary filmmaker.
Thunberg and the crew are aboard the Malizia II, a 60-foot, zero-carbon sailboat. The words, “Unite Behind the Science,” a motto Thunberg coined after an impassioned speech she gave last month to the National Assembly of France adorn both Thunberg’s suit and the boat’s mainsail.
Thunberg opted for this unique mode of transportation due to the negative impact flying has on the environment. Earlier this year, when Thunberg went on a European tour, she did so by train.
When asked if she wanted others to ban flying as well, Thunberg said it was their own decision.
“I’m not telling anyone what to do or what not to do,” she said. “I am one of the very people in the world who actually can do this, and I think I should take this chance.”
Taking a chance is certainly a good way to describe Thunberg’s decision to embark on this epic journey. Although the hyper-efficient yacht is definitely high-tech, it doesn’t fare well for long, leisurely trips—rather, the Malizia II is actually a racing boat. As a result, these passengers are certainly in for a ride.
Life on the sea proves far from paradise
The New York Times reported Thunberg will live off freeze-dried food, drink filtered seawater, and use a bucket to go to the restroom. While Thunberg and her father will have beds to sleep on, the other team members will sleep on bean bags.
Thunberg, however, planned accordingly so as not to live completely in the dark. With a satellite phone, she’s able to communicate sporadically with friends and family, who will update her followers. Additionally, since the vessel isn’t well-lit, Thunberg will use a headlamp to read and journal her travel experience.
“By doing this, it also shows how impossible it is today to live sustainable,” she said. “That, in order to travel with zero emissions, that we have to sail like this across the Atlantic Ocean.”
“We will make sure she will reach New York in the safest way possible,” Boris Herrmann, skipper of the boat and Team Malizia co-founder, said. “I feel humbled that Greta accepted our offer as the lowest-carbon option to cross the Atlantic—despite the lack of comfort for her.”
Though Thunberg is nervous, she has since assured her 1.06 million Twitter fanbase that she is safe and healthy.
Call for celebration
Thunberg disembarked from Plymouth, England, which she traveled to from Sweden by train. As the team sailed onwards for their 3,000-mile trip, fans sent them off with cheers of encouragement.
Mozza Brewer, who dubbed Thunberg as “Greta the Great,” told CBC she traveled about an hour south to Plymouth to wish Thunberg well on her travels.
“I want her to know there is so much love for her in the world; so many support what she’s doing in spite of the trolls and negativity about what this young woman has achieved,” Brewer said.
However, great support almost always comes with harsh criticism as well—and when it comes to critics on social media, it’s hardly ever smooth sailing. While en route to New York, social media has blown up with backlash towards the teen activist and her fairly unusual voyage.
Still facing criticism
On Twitter, British businessman and staunch Brexit supporter Arron Banks wrote, “Freak yachting accidents do happen in August…”
Immediately, Banks found himself in the middle of a storm of online condemnation. British actress Amanda Abbington took to Twitter as well to express her discontentment, characterizing Banks as “incredibly cruel, vicious and ignorant” for his message.
“If you are a grown up, fully-fledged adult and you are mocking this young girl for trying to save the planet, then I feel genuinely sorry for you,” Abbington wrote.
Banks defended himself, saying the Tweet was simply a joke, before adding, “you lefties have no sense of humour.”
Carbon emissions are inevitable
Once Thunberg reaches America, the sailing team would fly back and return the boat. To offset the carbon emissions from the crew members’ flight, the team will donate to other carbon-reducing projects.
Holly Cova, a spokeswoman for the racing company, told The Associated Press via email, “we only have one boat, so they cannot easily sail over to meet them.”
While the team understood the solution was “imperfect,” Cova says it’s “better than doing nothing.”
Next steps for Greta
Navigating how to evoke real, meaningful change in the fight against climate change can be difficult, especially when constant reports and news alerts may make it seem like hope is dwindling. However, with young activists like Thunberg going above and beyond to do their part in trying to save the planet, it serves as a reminder that anyone—no matter how small—can make a tremendous impact, and that even though there may be storms brewing up ahead, change is on the horizon.
If interested in tracking Greta Thunberg on her journey, her progress can be found here.