Blog post

3 non-violent communication lessons by Greta, the 16-year-old environmental activist

By Joanna IK

That is the conclusion my friend who works on peace education and I reached over coffee. Greta, the 16-year-old student from Sweden who tackles climate change, is delivering non-violent communication lessons, enchanting people who follow her work.

About Greta

Greta introduces herself as an environmental activist who has Asperger. Through her work she addresses stereotypes which project young people as being disinterested in social progress, and people with Asperger, disinterested in the needs of others.

Greta is concerned about climate change, limited interest of adults and information gap among young people regarding the impact on everyday life. She feels that there can be no future for her peers. When in the company of adults, she would stress:

Our future was stolen from us every time you said that ‘the sky was the limit’, and that ‘you only live once’.

About the “Fridays for Future” movement

August 2018, Greta makes the decision to act for the environment. Every Friday, she strikes from school to sit in front of the local council, holding in silence a banner of protest. She wants to ensure the commitment of adults making decisions, to action for the protection of the environment. She believes that the environmental crisis is existential crisis.

Soon, people would start to join her cause, within and beyond borders. Her work becomes a trending topic on social media. It inspires the youth community and the creation of the Fridays for Future movement. This means that every Friday, there are school strikes around the world. And Greta is invited to deliver speeches at councils worldwide.

Changing lifestyle

Greta reveals how devastated she felt when she found out about the impact of climate change on everyday life. She feared that there is no future for young people. When she shared her concerns with her parents, together, they made the decision to change their way of living life.

She believes that modern life is destroying the environment that surrounds us. She travels abroad by train, never by plane. She avoids eating meat and its byproducts. She buys no new things.

Principles of non-violence communication

Greta gains the attention of others in a creative way. Her speeches are based on principles of non-violent communication such as:

  • persistence and patience
  • avoidance of blaming and naming
  • use of humour

She relies on persistence and patience

Greta delivers her message in a steady way. When interviewed, she reiterates the same message, regardless of reactions – be it positive or negative. She remains focussed on her goal.

Every Friday, no matter what the weather is like, no matter where she is, she sits in front of the local council; in front of adults making decisions which can affect our future. She knows that it takes time to make a message understood. She can wait.

She avoids blaming and naming

In a creative way, she encourages adults to assume accountability for their actions, and turn promises into reality. She reminds them that it is their job to do so. Blaming and punishment have no place in her speeches.

She would focus on the desired outcome and the desired change. She refers to past mistakes only to highlight what needs to be improved / resolved today, and avoided in the future. Towards the end, Greta stresses that young people and adults, can work together to tackle climate change.

She uses humour as a communication tool

She can pleasantly surprise her audience and win their trust. To give an example, when she recently addressed the UK Parliament, she told the members:

Is the microphone really on? Did you hear me? Is my English OK? Because I’m beginning to wonder…

In response, the members laughed and applauded.

There is no naming and no blaming. Greta tells them that action is still not being taken on climate change. They acknowledge so and pay close attention to what she has to propose.

From my point of view, Greta tells us all that it takes one person to make a difference. Provided that it is done in a calm and patient way, with the public interest in mind.

Have a creative week

A blogger friend, Joanna


For more information, please visit Greta’s twitter account. Click

Main photo: Geralt on Pixabay

Comments (24)

  • Snehal

    21 May 2019 at 16:02

    Oh she is just 16! Greta will inspire many teens and adults. I agree that modern life is harming the environment. :/

    1. By Joanna K

      21 May 2019 at 20:09

      Snehal, nice to see you again 🙂

  • Thuy

    21 May 2019 at 15:39

    I love seeing young people advocate for what they believe in. I like how she highlights non-violence and humor as her methods. If more people got on board we could be in a better place

    1. By Joanna K

      21 May 2019 at 20:03

      It is never too late 🙂

  • Erica (The Prepping Wife)

    21 May 2019 at 09:25

    I take issue with the fact she’s missing school every single week to protest. But I also admire her persistence because that isn’t something seen in a normal/average 16 year old. I’m curious why she takes such issue with phrases like ‘the sky is the limit’ and ‘you only live once.’ Both are true statements and meant to teach us to make the most of our lives each and every day. I don’t know that I agree with her saying her future is being stolen every time an adult says one of those things. It is certainly a very different perspective. I’m very interested to see what the future holds for her.

    1. By Joanna K

      21 May 2019 at 20:03

      Erica, thank you for your insightful comment. It helps to hear different perspectives, to get the big picture.
      I hear your concerns. I can only share my understanding of Greta’s statement. I understand that she is concerned about possible implications for climate change. If the end justifies the means, would this mean that the world can allow for irreparable damage to the environment; the natural habitat of animals and plants?

  • Live Learn Better

    20 May 2019 at 20:00

    What a marvel to see someone at the age of 16 doing something that wonderful? I doff my hat for her.

    1. Joanna K.

      21 May 2019 at 08:39

      Join the club 🙂

  • Mayuri Patel

    20 May 2019 at 19:20

    We definitely have reached a critical point where environment is concerned. We all need to do our bit. Reduce consumerism. Greta is a great inspiration to both young and old.

    1. Joanna K.

      21 May 2019 at 08:37

      Mayuri, you have a good point there: reduce consumerism. Sometimes we seem to forget that it’s one thing to acquire/consume and another to create/offer.

  • Vincent Monaco

    20 May 2019 at 15:33

    This is an inspiring blog. Although she is 16, she is taking action in her community and abroad. She is worried about the future, but she is an example of the drive that is in her generation to fix things. She is someone to look up to.

    1. Joanna K.

      21 May 2019 at 08:33

      Vincent, thank you for your kind words. It is amazing, how determined her generation is, to fix things that aren’t working anymore.

  • Tracy C

    19 May 2019 at 20:57

    Greta is definitely doing something impressive, although I wish she wasn’t skipping school to do it. I wish she could do this on the weekends, but then perhaps it wouldn’t be as effective.

    1. Joanna K.

      21 May 2019 at 08:29

      Tracy, as an educator, I know what you mean. Greta seems to have worked everything out. She knows what she is doing and why.

  • Subhashish Roy

    18 May 2019 at 12:08

    It is really commendable. At 16 years of age she is taking giant steps to address an issue that is so very important for our survival and more so for the future generations.

    1. Joanna K.

      21 May 2019 at 08:26

      Subhashish, so good of you to remind us that the climate crisis concerns our survival. Future generations would be greatly affected.

  • Trish Veltman

    18 May 2019 at 03:27

    Greta Thunberg is a smart, capable, inspirational young woman. This is a great analysis of her communication/personal approach. We could all learn a lot from the way she does things.

    1. Joanna K.

      21 May 2019 at 08:22

      Trish, thank you for your kind words. Learning is an ongoing process and we adults can learn from young people as well.

  • Joyce Osiango

    18 May 2019 at 02:05

    She is a one to follow at a younger age, she has the power that many people in power are misusing. Our environment is important and people should be aware of climate change

    1. Joanna K.

      21 May 2019 at 08:20

      Joyce, thank you for stressing out that we need to become aware of climate change. Social media can help in that direction.

  • Despite Pain

    17 May 2019 at 23:19

    We need more people like Greta in the world. She has started a wonderful thing across the globe. Those youngsters care more about our planet than most politicians. Greta is an amazing young woman.

    1. Joanna K.

      21 May 2019 at 08:11

      Elizabeth, I find it interesting, how many adults look up to young Greta. I think that when you act with purpose, then you get the support you need to carry on with your work.

  • Scott J DeNicola

    17 May 2019 at 20:21

    I was not doing anything nearly as important as Greta at 16. What an extraordinary young lady to be tackling such a large task at her age! It is critical to make sure we leave something for our children. I had not heard of Fridays For Future yet (at least not here in the states but I may have also missed it) I’ll have to keep my eye out now for this movement and this outstanding girl.

    1. Joanna K.

      21 May 2019 at 08:08

      Morning Scott. I agree, we adults need to take action now, to leave something good for our children. I’m not certain where in the United States there may be Fridays-for-Future gatherings. I know that there is a Facebook page with the schedule – worldwide:

Comments are closed.