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Saturday 30 September 2023 Dublin: 8°C
Pacific Press/SIPA USA/PA Images Greta Thunberg giving a speech in Turin earlier this month.
# School strike
'We thought it was a bad idea': Greta Thunberg's dad says he was worried about her climate activism
Svante Thunberg said that he and his wife made changes in their lives to ‘save’ their daughter.

GRETA THUNBERG’S PARENTS made changes in their lives to “save” their daughter rather than the climate, according to her father.

Svante Thunberg said his 16-year-old daughter “fell ill” three or four years before going on school strikes, and stopped eating and talking to others.

Asked how she got better, he said he and his wife – opera singer Malena Ernman – took time off from their work and sought help from doctors.

Thunberg added that changes made in their own lives – including his own decision to become vegan – gave Greta energy.

His remarks came during a special edition of the BBC Radio 4 Today programme guest-edited by Greta.

Thunberg said of her climate change activism:

We thought it was a bad idea, just the idea of your own daughter sort of putting herself at the very front line of such a huge question like climate change.

“You wouldn’t want that as a parent.”

He said they spoke several times with Greta before she pursued her campaigning, explaining that she would have to do it by herself and be well prepared for questions she would face – praising her response.

vatican-rome-pope-francis-greets-swedish-teenage-environmental-activist-greta-thunberg-during-his-weekly-general-audience-in-st-peters-square-at-the-vatican-greta-with-her-father-svante-thunberg Maria Grazia Picciarella / Ropi Greta Thunberg and her father at the Vatican in April. Maria Grazia Picciarella / Ropi / Ropi

Thunberg also talked about the difficulties that his daughter, who has been diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, experienced with depression.

Asked how she got better, Thunberg said: “We just took a very, very long time to spend a lot of time together and just work it out together.”

He said Greta thought her parents were “huge hypocrites” because they were active advocates for refugees, noting that his daughter would ask “Whose human rights are you standing up?” given that they were not taking the climate issue seriously.

Thunberg said his wife stopped flying and had to “change her whole career”.

He added: “To be honest, she didn’t do it save the climate – she did it to save her child because she saw how much it meant to her, and then, when she did that, she saw how much she grew from that, how much energy she got from it.”

He said he “became vegan” and Greta “got more and more energy” from this.

“I knew they were the right things to do because I understood the facts at that time, but I didn’t do it to save the climate, I did it to save my child,” he said.

On the abuse the teenager faces, Thunberg said: “The hate, quite frankly, I don’t know how she does it but she laughs most of the time, she finds it hilarious.”

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