Teenage climate change activist Greta Thunberg has spoken of the “gift” of living with Asperger’s syndrome and how it helps her to “see things from outside the box”.
The 16-year-old won even more fans as she spoke of being on the spectrum, and how a school lesson on climate change and its devastating effects on wildlife and the oceans sparked her passion for the cause.
Speaking to Nick Robinson on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, the schoolgirl said it helped her to see things in “black and white”.
“It makes me different, and being different is a gift, I would say.
“It also makes me see things from outside the box. I don’t easily fall for lies, I can see through things.
“If I had been like everyone else, I wouldn’t have started the school strike. I don’t think I would be interested in the climate at all, if I had been like everyone else.”
She continued: “Many people say that it doesn’t matter, you can cheat sometimes. But I can’t do that. You can’t be a little bit sustainable. Either you’re sustainable, or not sustainable.”
Thunberg made the decision to strike off school between August and September last year, following heatwaves and wildfires in her home country of Sweden.
Her actions have inspired masses of children around the world to stage school strikes for the climate one day a month.
Thunberg said 1.6 million schoolchildren had taken part so far, a figure she said she could not take in.
At age 11, Thunberg became “very depressed”.
“It had a lot to do with the climate and ecological crisis. I thought everything was just so wrong and nothing was happening and there’s no point in anything,” she told Robinson.
But it was her realisation that she could make a difference, which spurred her on to develop ways she could bring awareness to the “existential crisis”.
She admitted that her parents were “not very fond” of her decision to school strike, which she began last summer.
“I just kept on planning this and talking about it.
“And I said ‘I’m going to do this, whether you like it or not’”.
The activist, who has been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize, spoken at the UN and met the pope, travelled to London by train to address Extinction Rebellion demonstrators on Saturday, whose efforts she supports.
She told Robinson: “As long as it’s non violent, it could definitely make a difference and make people more aware that we show that this is an emergency, this is an existential crisis. I think that disruption definitely has a lot of impact.”
“If your house is on fire then that does require some level of panic,” she said.
“You don’t sit talking about insurance claims and rebuilding, renovations - you do everything you can to put out the fire.”
On Tuesday, Theresa May was “empty chaired” as Thunberg met Westminster leaders including Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, Liberal Democrat Sir Vince Cable, and Green MP Caroline Lucas.
I don’t easily fall for lies, I can see through thingsGreta Thunberg
A place at the table was left free for the prime minister, with a sign bearing her name, but she did not attend as she was instead chairing Cabinet in 10 Downing Street.
Thunberg urged politicians to “listen to the science” and invite scientists for discussions, adding that the best thing individuals can do about the crisis is to say informed.
“Because once you fully understand the consequences of the climate and ecological crisis, then you know what you must do, what habits you need to change.”