PLYMOUTH, England – Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old climate activist, skilfully climbed aboard the Malizia II, the race yacht that will depart Wednesday afternoon when the wind is good and take her across the Atlantic to New York. The journey is expected to last two weeks. The sea is probably rough once in a while.
Ms. Thunberg made this epic journey because she was invited to participate in the United Nations climate talks in September, and she refused to fly because aviation had such a huge ecological footprint.
And so on a Tuesday morning, under a gray sky, she was aboard a slender racing machine that had made many journeys across the ocean, but never with a 16-year-old novice. The boat was equipped with solar panels to power its equipment. The conditions inside were spartan: there is no toilet or a lot of light in the cabin, so she will have to read with a headlight. In a particularly acute challenge for a teenager with more than 871,000 Twitter followers, she will not have much internet access.
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Mrs. Thunberg has never done anything like this in front of. She said she is looking forward to it without being the trusted luxury, & # 39; being so limited & # 39 ;. She acknowledged it be a little nervous. "Whether it's seasickness or homesickness or just anxiety or I don't know," she said. "I don't know how hard this trip will be."
She also said she will really miss her two dogs.
She has packed many books (she is currently reading & # 39; Quiet & # 39 ;, a book about introverted people like her); write eight diaries, some partially filled; and boxes of freeze-dried vegan meals. (Mrs. Thunberg stopped eating meat a few years ago due to the emission of animal proteins.)
There is a satellite phone on board, so she plans to send some photos and text messages from her trip to friends that she will upload to her social media accounts. Going to the toilet means going to the back of the boat with a bucket. Her drinking water comes from a small desalination machine that treats seawater.
"It also shows how impossible it is nowadays to live sustainably," she said. "That in order to travel without emissions, we have to sail across the Atlantic."
The epic journey of the Malizia II is the newest phase in an epic journey that Mrs Thunberg has made in recent years. As a child, doctors told her she had Asperger's syndrome. In early adolescence they fought against major depression, so bad that she stopped eating for a while and stopped growing.
Recovery came slowly and only after finding a sense of purpose. "I have had my share of depression, alienation, anxiety and disorders," she wrote a recent Facebook post. “But without my diagnosis, I would never have made a striking start with school. Because then I would have been just like everyone else. & # 39;
Her weekly school strikes began a year ago in Stockholm, her hometown. They caused a global youth movement to demand climate action and then turned it into something of a modern Kassandra, a target of praise and targeted attacks. In March came for a nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize. António Guterres, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, said he trusted young activists like her "push societies to save our planet. " This week Steve Milloy, a former member of the Trump transition team, has described her on Twitter as & # 39; the ignorant teenage climate doll & # 39 ;.
Mrs. Thunberg removed the attacks on Tuesday. "They are doing everything they can to focus the climate crisis on me," she said. "That's what you should expect when you talk about these things."
Mrs. Thunberg takes the year off from school. She is scheduled to attend the United Nations climate summit meetings next month, at a youth summit on September 21 and then at the main meeting on September 23. She also plans to travel to Chile for the next round of United Nations-sponsored climate talks in December.
Both meetings are attended by world leaders, who have all agreed, under the Paris Agreement, to prevent global temperatures from rising to levels that would cause climate disasters. Yet global emissions continue to grow and the world as a whole is not on track to meet the objectives of the Paris Agreement.
"This is a great opportunity for those world leaders who say they have listened to us to actually show that they have listened to us, to actually prove that," Mrs. Thunberg said.
The journey has attracted huge media attention. Mrs. Thunberg gave four face-to-face interviews on Tuesday, talked to other reporters on the phone in the meantime, and greeted a few youth strikers who had come to Plymouth from elsewhere in Britain before embarking on emergency training.
There were many handlers and helpers. And there was Greta swag. A woman who moved seats for her benefactors wore a sweatshirt that shouted: & # 39; Be like Greta. & # 39; Mrs Thunberg, in turn, wore a red hoodie and lilac training pants with a hole in the knee.
Boris Hermann, the 38-year-old German captain, said he had crossed the Atlantic Ocean many times. In fact, with this yacht he sailed around the world, found routes where the wind was in his back and guided them through rain and darkness. However, this journey would be different. "I feel a special responsibility, also because it is an important journey for Greta and we have promised to take her," he said. "I admire her leadership."
The captain said he would try to take a southern route to the United States to avoid the strongest headwind, to find what he called the "softest" variations. If the wind is calm, it could sail smoothly and its passengers could relax and read. Or there can be gusts of wind and rain.
There are two beds for Mrs. Thunberg and her father, Svante, who accompanies her. The others on the trip – Mr. Hermann, the skipper; Pierre Casiraghi, the head of the Malizia II racing team; and a documentary maker named Nathan Grossman – planning to sleep on bean bags. The boat has an engine and generator in case of emergency. The slogan on the mainsail was chosen by Mrs. Thunberg. "Unite Behind the Science," it says.
Mrs. Thunberg will almost reach the age of Mr. Hermann in 2040, and scientists say Climate disasters can hit the world unless we move away quickly from a fossil-fuel-based economy.
"I have no idea what the world will look like," she said. Either the world will have tackled the problem on time, she went on, or it has crossed over to what scientists & # 39; tipping points & # 39; after which it is impossible to return to normal weather patterns.
"I can't really start planning my future," she said.
That deep uncertainty infuses the activism of many people of her generation. It largely explains why she makes this voyage across the ocean – and why she wants to focus on the basics before the trip.
"My goal is to feel as good as possible during the trip," she said