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Why Greta Thunberg Became a Climate Activist — and How Her Asperger’s Helps Her Succeed

Jameela Jamil, Anne Hathaway, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Priyanka Chopra are amongst the climate activist Greta Thunberg’s biggest fans. On Friday, Ellen DeGeneres joined that list, welcoming the Swedish 16-year-old to her talk show to discuss her work fighting climate change. During their conversation, Thunberg said her Asperger’s makes her a better climate activist — and the reason she gave is so compelling.

DeGeneres first raised the question: “You say that your Asperger’s is a gift,” the host poses to Thunberg. “I think that it is a gift, but explain why you say that.”

Thunberg replies instantly: “In this society, everyone is the same, everyone thinks the same. I think it is a gift to be different, to have some kind of — if you are on the autism spectrum, that makes you different. And especially in a crisis like this, we need to think outside the box, we need people who think differently. And that means that people who work differently can be a good resource for that.”

One thing is clear: Thunberg’s unique approach to climate activism has captured the nation’s attention. Thunberg has earned herself a central role in the climate change conversation — an astonishing feat for anyone, let alone a teenager.

But when you see Thunberg talk, you don’t question for a second why she’s been such a phenomenon. Her eloquence and earnestness — combined with the fact of her youth, and the sad reality of the condition our planet will be in as she grows older — puts the urgency of the climate crisis in a clear view.

DeGeneres is equally impressed with Thunberg and announced that she’s putting $100,000 into a new section on Ellentube sharing climate change information and resources, plus tips on how to live more sustainably and join in on activist efforts across the globe. In her own life, in addition to leading the climate conversation on a wide scale, Thunberg has given up flying, stopped purchasing nonessential items, and is a vegan.

The one thing she won’t do? When DeGeneres asks whether Thunberg would meet with President Donald Trump (who has been openly critical of the 16-year-old), the activist looks away. “I don’t see what I could tell him that he hasn’t already heard,” she says.”I just think it would be a waste of time.”

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