No One Is Too Small to Make a Difference

“We will never stop fighting for the living planet and for our future.”

No One Is Too Small to Make a Difference brings together speeches by the well-known white Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg. While books for young readers about Thunberg have appeared, this accessible book presents Thunberg’s ideas from her initial year of climate activism in her own powerful words. 

Reading Thunberg’s speeches provides a sense of the clarity, potency, and often provocativeness of her language — a key aspect of her youth climate activism. In some speeches, she uses her status as a child to address adults’ failures to adequately combat the climate crisis, as when she addresses the US Congress: “you must not gamble your children’s future on the flip of a coin. Instead, you must unite behind the science.” In other speeches, she joins with other youth to underscore the importance of their collective action: “Some would say we are wasting lesson time; we say we are changing the world.” She also directly refers to the originality of her writing against challenges about whether she writes her own speeches.  

No One Is Too Small to Make a Difference presents how Thunberg’s voice developed over time and with different audiences. The book organizes its sixteen speeches chronologically, beginning with Thunberg’s September 2018 speech at the Stockholm Climate March following the first few weeks of her school strike for climate; an updated 2021 edition provides seven more speeches from 2019 and 2020. The book indicates the audience for each speech, from an Extinction Rebellion Rally to the French National Assembly, from a Facebook post to the UN General Assembly. Thunberg describes the origin of the school strike for climate in a straightforward way: she began the school strike on her own because she “liked the idea of a school strike” so “On the 20th of August I sat down outside the Swedish Parliament.” She writes often stridently about the inaction of government leaders and other adults, while stating that “we who will have to live with the consequences – and indeed those who are living with the climate and ecological crisis already – don’t have a choice” about demanding and seeking solutions. She sometimes intentionally tries to provoke climate anxiety as a means of urging people (specifically adults) to take action, as in her address to the World Economic Forum in 2019: “I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act.” Throughout the book, her reference to basic scientific facts about climate change is understandable through the contextual cues of her sentences. This book reveals how Thunberg uses her perspective on unfolding events to motivate others to take immediate action to address the climate crisis: “I think that if a few children can get headlines all over the world just by not going to school for a few weeks, imagine what we all could do together if we wanted to.”

©2022 ClimateLit (Rachel Conrad)

Check out the publisher’s website for an Educator’s Guide:

Publisher: Penguin, 2019

Pages: 106

ISBN: 978-0-14-313356-8

Audience: Ages 14+

Format: Nonfiction, Youth-Authored

Topics: Activism, Climate Anxiety, Climate Change, Climate Crisis, Climate Justice, Climate Literacy, Collective Action, Global Warming, Greta Thunberg, School Strike for Climate, Solutions, Youth Climate Activism