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Teen Climate Activist Greta Thunberg Docks In NYC

16-year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg arrives in New York City on the sailboat Malizia II, ahead of the United Nations Climate Action Summit.
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Greta Thunberg aboard the Malizia II, docking in NYC. Craig Ruttle/AP/Shutterstock

Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old climate activist from Sweden, completed her two-week sail across the Atlantic on Wednesday, clearing customs at Coney Island before docking in New York Harbor this afternoon. Thunberg arrived weeks in advance of the United Nations Climate Action Summit, where she is scheduled to speak on September 23rd, on a carbon-neutral yacht called the Malizia II. She opted to sail for 15 days rather than fly, due to air travel's frankly stunning emissions toll.

Thunberg's flight-less lifestyle (in 2018, she founded "We Stay on the Ground" to encourage more people to take her no-planes pledge) is just one facet of her environmental activism, the most famous of which is probably the "Fridays for the Future" movement she started in August 2018. Thunberg skipped school for three weeks to sit outside Swedish parliament, vowing to keep up her protest until the adults in charge took meaningful action on the climate crisis, and inspiring global school walkouts while she did it. Thunberg reportedly learned about climate change when she was 8 years old, and grew so depressed over the issue that she stopped eating and stopped talking. Thunberg also has Asperger's and OCD, she once explained in a Ted Talk: "That basically means I only speak when I think it's necessary. Now is one of those moments."

Physically getting her to the U.N. summit proved a puzzle, though, with Thunberg all the way across the ocean: In July, she accepted a ride aboard the Malizia II, a racing yacht equipped with solar panels, hydro-turbines, and tools that collected data on the ocean's pH as it sailed from the UK to New York. Her choice of travel — the whole bent of her activism, really — garnered outsized criticism alongside the applause. Nonetheless, Thunberg diligently live-tweeted her journey, keeping everyone abreast of the sometimes-very-choppy sailing conditions.

Arriving in NYC, Thunberg was greeted by an enormous chanting crowd — and at least one billboard boat, which, according to Gwynne Hogan, our WNYC reporter on the ground, was flashing a message about climate change, but still. Regardless, Thunberg's supporters were thrilled to see her.

"I think that she’s a wonderful person and she’ll help so much with climate change and we might stand a chance if we could actually fix this democracy we’re living in,” Ésme Ruiz, 8, told Hogan.

"I’m just so excited," 17-year-old Arden Astin, a fellow boat-dweller, agreed. "I’m so happy to see this happening... it’s like the best thing going on in the world right now.” Another Astin, 8-year-old Riley, echoed that sentiment. "I'm very glad that Greta has come to help us recognize that the world really means something, and that all the animals and sea life are depending on us," Riley told Hogan. "It's very tragic for the world to be experiencing this."

After disembarking on Wednesday, Thunberg gave a brief press conference in Downtown Manhattan. "The war against nature must end," she said, adding that — once she gets some rest and a bath — she'll be joining a student protest on Friday. "My message to all the activists: Just keep going. I know it may seem impossible at times."

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