NEW YORK (AFP) — Climate campaigner Greta Thunberg sailed into New York on a zero-emissions yacht Wednesday, said the “war on nature must end,” and called on Donald Trump to listen to science.
The 16-year-old completed a 15-day journey across the Atlantic shortly after 4 p.m. local time, stepping off the boat onto a Manhattan dock to cheering crowds chanting her name.
“It is devastating and so horrible. It’s hard to imagine. They are a clear sign that we need to stop destroying nature,” she told reporters who asked how she felt about raging fires in the Amazon, the world’s largest rainforest.
The Swedish teen also rebuked Trump, a notorious climate change skeptic.
“My message for him is, ‘Listen to the science,’ and he obviously doesn’t do that,” she said, as she brought her environmental message to the United States for the first time.
Thunberg poked fun at the president by saying she was “pretty sure” windmills don’t cause cancer, in reference to a comment Trump made at a Republican fundraising event in April.
Thunberg become an international symbol for climate action with her stark warnings of catastrophe if the world does not act now to cut carbon emissions and curb global warming.
Thunberg, who was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome at the age of 12, began sitting outside the Swedish parliament in August 2018 to get members to act on climate change.
She was quickly joined by other students around the world, as word of her strike spread through the media, and the “Fridays for future” movement was born.
She will attend a summit on zero emissions at the United Nations in September but refused to fly because of the carbon emissions caused by planes.
She was offered a ride on the Malizia II racing yacht skippered by Pierre Casiraghi, the son of Monaco’s Princess Caroline, and German round-the-world sailor Boris Herrmann.
Thunberg has received criticism and abuse for her uncompromising attitude. Her voyage sparked controversy after a spokesman for co-skipper Herrmann told Berlin newspaper TAZ that several people would fly into New York to help take the yacht back to Europe.
Hermann himself will return by plane, according to the spokesman.
Team Malizia’s manager insisted, though, that the young activist’s journey would be climate neutral, as the flights would “be offset.”
A few hundred well-wishers and activists clapped and chanted “Greta, Greta, Greta” as she completed her 3,000-nautical-mile) trip under overcast skies.
She passed the Statue of Liberty and headed up the Hudson River before docking at North Cove Marina near the World Trade Center.
The United Nations sent a flotilla of 17 sailboats, one for each of its sustainable development goals for 2030, to welcome her.
Thunberg endured rough seas and cramped conditions but said she never felt seasick once. She ate freeze-dried food and used a bucket as a toilet.
“It’s insane that a 16-year-old has to cross the Atlantic Ocean to make a stand. This, of course, is not something that I want everyone to do,” she said, smiling.
Thunberg added that she planned to rest before joining youngsters striking outside the UN on Friday.
The Malizia II yacht left Plymouth in southern England on Aug. 14, and the teenager marked the first anniversary of the start of her school strike on Aug. 20.
The 18-meter yacht features state-of-the-art solar panels on its deck and sides, and two hydro-generators provide the vessel’s electricity.
It can travel at around 35 knots.
Thunberg has said that she does not yet know how she will return to Europe.
Before the U.N. summit on Sept. 23, Thunberg will take part in youth demonstrations, then head to Canada, Mexico and Chile for another U.N. conference in December.
© Agence France-Presse