Speaking to a BBC Radio Programme, of which his daughter Greta is guest-editor today, Svante Thunberg said the 16-year-old had become “very happy” as a result of her climate activist work despite facing regular abuse from people who “don’t want to change” their lifestyles and he worries about all the “hate” she faces. Ironically the BBC flew presenter Mishal Husain to Stockholm to interview the teenager and her dad, New York Post reports.
Actor-turned-producer Svante Thunberg, 50, told the BBC that he and Greta’s mom, opera singer Malena Ernman, at first objected to their shy daughter becoming an eco-warrior and Thunberg said he was “not supportive” of Greta skipping school for the climate strike protest movement she began, known as Fridays for Future.
“Obviously, we thought it was a bad idea, putting herself out there with all the hate on social media,” he said about Greta, who was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome at age 12.
Her parents realized just how much the existential threat of climate change weighed on her when she became depressed at age 11.
“She stopped talking, she stopped going to school,” he said, adding that he and his wife confronted the “ultimate nightmare for a parent” when Greta began refusing to eat (long enough to actually stunt her growth).
After spearheading a global movement and Greta demanding that world leaders take action over climate change, she has been nominated for this year’s Nobel Peace Prize and also was named Time magazine’s “Person of the Year.”
Thunberg said to help her recover, the 50-year-old actor and his wife Malena Ernman cancelled work to spend more time with Greta and her younger sister, Beata, at their home in Sweden.
Together, in a sort of ‘folie a quatre’, which included her younger sister, Beata, they began discussing and researching climate change, as Greta became increasingly passionate, obsessive (and delusional) about tackling the issue.
Greta accused her folks, as “very active” human rights advocates, of being “huge hypocrites,” Thunberg said.
“Greta said, ‘Whose human rights are you standing up for?’ since we were not taking this climate issue seriously,” he told the BBC.
He said Greta ultimately got “energy” when her parents became more environmentally conscious — such as her mother choosing not to travel by air, and her father becoming vegan and joining her on sailing expeditions to UN climate summits.
“I did all these things, I knew they were the right thing to do … but I didn’t do it to save the climate, I did it to save my child,” Thunberg said. “I have two daughters and to be honest, they are all that matter to me. I just want them to be happy.”
Thunberg said his daughter has “changed” and become “very happy” as a result of her activism. But said he was particularly worried about “the fake news, all the things that people try to fabricate her – the hate that that generates”.
“You think she’s not ordinary now because she’s special, and she’s very famous, and all these things. But to me she’s now an ordinary child — she can do all the things like other people can,” he said.
“She dances around, she laughs a lot, we have a lot of fun — and she’s in a very good place,” he added.
He hoped things would become “less intense” for his family in the future and that he thinks Greta “really wants to go back to school”.
During the program, Greta also spoke via Skype with environmental filmmaker Sir David Attenborough, who told her she had “woken up the world” to climate change.
The broadcaster and naturalist told Greta that she had “achieved things that many of us who have been working on the issue for 20 years have failed to do.”
This year Greta Thunberg found herself in President Trump’s cross hairs.
In September, Trump tweeted at the teen after she gave an impassioned speech to global leaders at the United Nations, saying they had “stolen my dreams and my childhood.”
“She seems like a very happy young girl looking forward to a bright and wonderful future. So nice to see!” Trump wrote sarcastically of Thunberg in a tweet.
Thunberg fired back by changing her Twitter bio to: “A very happy young girl looking forward to a bright and wonderful future.”
On Monday, she was asked what she would have said to the president, who has questioned the fake climate science, at the UN summit on global warming.
“Honestly, I don’t think I would have said anything because obviously he’s not listening to scientists and experts, so why would he listen to me?” she said. “So I probably wouldn’t have said anything, I wouldn’t have wasted my time.”
Mr Thunberg admitted his daughter deals with criticism “incredibly well”, adding: “Quite frankly, I don’t know how she does it, but she laughs most of the time. She finds it hilarious.”