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TIME’s Person of the Year Is Probably the Person Who Wants It Least: Greta Thunberg

Teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg looks up at the sky.

Young Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg has been very clear that she doesn’t want recognition for her work, and would rather that people instead recognize the actual problem and do something about it already. That hasn’t stopped the accolades from rolling in right on through to today, with TIME naming her its Person of the Year.

Great work, everyone. Apocalypse solved.

That’s not to downplay the impact of Thunberg’s activism or how inspiring she’s been, but if all of that is just inspiring people to … feel inspired, cheer her on, and put things on her shoulders rather than actually do anything themselves, that’s not really what she’s going for. She already made it pretty clear, in an impassioned speech in which she blasted politicians for having “stolen [her] dreams and [her] childhood with [their] empty words,” that she would rather get to be a child and have the adults stop depending on her to save everyone.

Just over a month ago, at the end of October, she declined the Nordic Council’s 2019 environmental award, offering this explanation on Instagram:

I am currently traveling through California and therefore not able to be present with you today. I want to thank the Nordic Council for this award. It is a huge honour.

But the climate movement does not need any more awards. What we need is for our politicians and the people in power start to listen to the current, best available science.

The Nordic countries have a great reputation around the world when it comes to climate and environmental issues. There is no lack of bragging about this. There is no lack of beautiful words. But when it comes to our actual emissions and our ecological footprints per capita—if we include our consumption, our imports as well as aviation and shipping—then it’s a whole other story.

We can only imagine she feels similarly about being named TIME’s Person of the Year.

That’s not to say that I don’t necessarily think any good could come of having a climate activist as TIME’s choice, although I’m not sure whether it’s likely to have any effect to push things forward or it’s just a product of how big the issue has gotten so far. There’s not really much more awareness left to be raised. What we need now is leaders who will actually do something—not cyber-bully a teenager for trying to save the world.

(image: Finnbarr Webster/Getty Images)

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Dan Van Winkle (he) is an editor and manager who has been working in digital media since 2013, first at now-defunct Geekosystem (RIP), and then at The Mary Sue starting in 2014, specializing in gaming, science, and technology. Outside of his professional experience, he has been active in video game modding and development as a hobby for many years. He lives in North Carolina with Lisa Brown (his wife) and Liz Lemon (their dog), both of whom are the best, and you will regret challenging him at Smash Bros.