(ABC News) — Greta Thunberg was named Time magazine’s 2019 Person of the Year on Wednesday morning. She is the youngest figure to receive the distinction in its 92-year history.
The 16-year-old Swedish climate activist has become an iconic face in the fight to save the planet from climate change. Last year, she began spending her Fridays protesting by herself outside the Swedish parliament, and that effort grew to her leading a host of student-led climate strikes involving millions of people in over 170 countries.
Thunberg sailed from England to New York this fall for a United Nations climate summit instead of flying, emphasizing it’s less harmful to the environment. She then drew worldwide attention for her fiery speech at the U.N., where she accused world leaders of stealing her dreams and childhood with their inaction on climate change.
“Entire ecosystems are collapsing. We are in the beginning of a mass extinction, and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you!” she asked at the U.N. in September. “The eyes of all future generations are upon you. And if you choose to fail us, I say — we will never forgive you.”
Thunberg has vowed the marches will continue until world leaders give serious attention to protecting the environment for future generations.
Time also named the World Cup-winning U.S. National Women’s Soccer Team as Athlete of the Year, Lizzo as Entertainer of the Year and Disney CEO Bob Iger as Business Person of the Year.
Known as “Man of the Year” or “Woman of the Year” until 1999, the annual issue of Time magazine profiles a person or group, idea or object, that “most affected the news and our lives, for good or ill, and embodied what was important about the year, for better or for worse,” former Time Managing Editor Walter Isaacson wrote in the 1998 issue. Though the outlet runs an online poll for People’s Choice, the final decision is made by editors.
The other finalists for the magazine’s annual title this year were President Donald Trump, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the whistleblower and the Hong Kong protesters.
The top 10 contenders included Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, U.S. Women’s National Team Captain Megan Rapinoe, Chinese President Xi Jinping, Prime Minister of New Zealand Jacinda Ardern and Rudy Giuliani, the former mayor of New York City and Trump’s personal lawyer.
Time’s 2018 Person of the Year was “The Guardians” — journalists who have faced persecution, arrest or murder for their reporting — including Jamal Khashoggi, Maria Ressa and the staff of the Capital Gazette newspaper in Maryland.
Time’s first Man of the Year was aviator Charles Lindbergh following his trans-Atlantic flight in 1927.