How Greta Thunberg Transformed Existential Dread into A Movement

Greta Thunberg Transformed Existential Dread into a Movement 4.6.2020
Emily Witt
Read the full piece in The New Yorker

As many commentators have pointed out, the emergence of the covid-19 virus and the global destruction of natural habitats are directly linked. The virus is thought to be zoonotic, which means it was first transferred from an animal to a human. Such diseases, according to epidemiologists, are often a consequence of the transformation of biodiverse lands into farms and the related global trade in wild animals. Our “war on nature,” as Thunberg has called it, has always been self-harm disguised as self-interest, and the emergence of the new virus is not a crisis separate from environmental destruction but a symptom of it.


The Thunberg family’s odyssey to the heights of global climate change resistance, as described in their family memoir, Our House is On Fire, follows the descent of their daughter, Greta, into the depths of despair over climate change and the whole family’s transformation. Greta insists that people remember that the pandemic “is a tragedy; people are dying,” and warns that it will be used “as a reason to pursue business as usual.”

Emily Witt is a staff writer at The New Yorker and author of Future Sex, and Nollywood.