Skip to main content

Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg stands aboard the catamaran La Vagabonde, in Hampton, Va., on Nov. 13, 2019.

NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images

Swedish teen climate activist Greta Thunberg hitched a renewable-energy ride back to Europe on Wednesday, sailing into the Atlantic on a trip she hopes will get her to Madrid in time for another climate conference, and then home for the holidays.

Ms. Thunberg tweeted as she took to the sea on the 15-metre catamaran of an Australian family that answered her urgent appeal for a low-carbon way back home after the United Nations climate meeting she had planned to attend in Chile was moved because of political unrest there. She encouraged followers to track their journey online.

Before departing, Ms. Thunberg reflected on her time in North America during an Associated Press interview in the cabin of the catamaran. Some people in power, she said, simply lack a sense of urgency when it comes to global warming.

Story continues below advertisement

“The situation in Canada and the U.S. is basically the same as to where I come from: It is the same arguments that are being used to delay action. It is the same methods that are being used to mislead people,” she said on Tuesday as they prepared to leave Hampton, Va., near the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay.

After her work in Spain, Ms. Thunberg hopes she’ll make it home for Christmas and to be with her family and her dogs, Moses and Roxy, a golden retriever and a Labrador.

“Of course I miss my family and dogs, and especially to have one place to stay, to not travel all the time,” she said. “Just to have routines.”

The boat taking her across the Atlantic, named La Vagabonde, leaves little to no carbon footprint when its sails are in use, counting on solar panels and hydro-generators for electricity. It also has a toilet, unlike the boat on which she sailed from the United Kingdom to New York in August. That one had only a bucket.

“There are countless people around the world who don’t have access to a toilet,” she said about the upgrade. “It’s not that important. But it’s nice to have.”

Her hosts are Riley Whitelum and Elayna Carausu, an Australian couple who travel the world with their 11-month-old baby, Lenny. The family, which has a large online following, responded to Ms. Thunberg’s call on social media for a carbon-free ride to Europe. An expert sailor, Nikki Henderson, also is coming along.

The trip could take two to four weeks, in conditions that could be challenging. November is considered off-season for sailing across the Atlantic. As Ms. Thunberg spoke Tuesday, the temperature had dipped, with sleet turning to light snow.

Story continues below advertisement

But the 16-year-old, who refuses to fly because of the carbon price of plane travel, didn’t seem bothered.

“I’m looking forward to it, just to be able to get away and recap everything and to just be disconnected,” she said.

Ms. Thunberg’s nearly three-month trip through North America included her impassioned speech before the UN. She joined in climate strike rallies and protests from California to Colorado to North Carolina.

Ms. Thunberg has become a symbol of a growing movement of young climate activists after leading weekly school strikes in Sweden that inspired similar actions in about 100 cities worldwide.

She’s also drawn criticism from conservative commentators in the United States, as well as Russian President Vladimir Putin. But she brushed off the criticism on Tuesday, saying that, yes, she is too young to be doing this.

“It should be the adults who take that responsibility,” Ms. Thunberg said. “But it feels like the adults and the people in power today are not.”

Story continues below advertisement

When she looks back on her time in the U.S. and Canada, Ms. Thunberg said, the things that stick out the most include a glacier in Canada’s Jasper National Park that is destined to disappear “no matter what we do.”

A visit to the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, where there have been protests over a pipeline, also left an impact.

“I was actually quite surprised to see how bad the Indigenous people have been treated,” she said. “They are the ones who are being impacted often the most and first by the climate and ecological crisis. And they are also the ones who are at the front line trying to fight it.”

She also was surprised at how much she was recognized.

“There are always people who come up to me and ask for selfies and so on,” she said. “So, that really gives you an idea of how big the climate movement has reached.”

Our Morning Update and Evening Update newsletters are written by Globe editors, giving you a concise summary of the day’s most important headlines. Sign up today.

Report an error
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

Cannabis pro newsletter
To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies