Greta Thunberg arrived in New York on Wednesday, stepping on to dry land after crossing the Atlantic in a zero-carbon yacht with a passionate message to tackle global heating.
Crowds had gathered to welcome her for hours beforehand, ready to welcome Thunberg’s arrival on the unconventional solar-powered craft.
Under cloudy skies at a marina near the southern tip of Manhattan, Thunberg’s supporters greeted the teenager who sparked a series of walkouts by students protesting against the lack of action to address the climate crisis.
At a press conference, Thunberg urged people to come together to tackle the climate crisis. “We need to stand together and take action because otherwise it might be too late.”
To cheers from the crowd, she said: “Let’s not wait any longer. Let’s do it now.”
She added: “It is insane that a 16-year-old would have to cross the Atlantic to take a stand … [against] the climate and ecological crisis is a global crisis and the biggest humanity has ever faced.”
She also took a swipe at the US president, Donald Trump, a longstanding denier of the climate crisis. When asked if she had a message for Trump, she said: “I say, ‘Listen to the science’. And he obviously does not do that. If no one has been able to convince him about the climate crisis and the urgency, why would I be able to?”
Thunberg docked at North Cove Marina on the edge of New York Harbor. The Marina is full of enormous yachts and sits right next to the Brookfield mall – a large glass dome filled with shoppers – which made for an opulent setting for the arrival of the climate change activist.
Her vessel had been welcomed by a flotilla of 17 sailing boats, each with one of the 17 sustainable development goals written on their sails. The special welcome convoy will intercept Thunberg’s yacht near the Statue of Liberty off the top of New York City.
Thunberg sailed to New York to attend a UN summit on zero emissions next month after refusing to fly there 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 Princess Caroline of Monaco, and the German round-the-world sailor Boris Herrmann.
The 16-year-old, whose school strikes have inspired children across the world to protest against the climate crisis, encountered some rough seas on her passage across the Atlantic and arrived later than expected.
As Thunberg’s yacht rounded the Statue of Liberty, it was met by a flotilla of 17 support boats, each with its sail printed with a message spelling out a recommended sustainable development goal, as promoted by the United Nations. These included combating discrimination and promoting peace, as well as using less plastic, not wasting food or water, using public transportation and vaccinating children against diseases
As Thunberg finally approached the harbor in New York, the crowds swelled.
“I’ve been following her for the past year or so and am very enthusiastic about what she’s doing, how she’s got young people involved with the striking,” said Richard Walser, an IT technician who traveled down from Connecticut to welcome Thunberg with his son, CJ.
Student Xiye Bastida, 17, said she was inspired by Thunberg’s activism to organize her own climate strike, involving 600 fellow students at her New York school.
“She has a moral aspect to her message, that our generation will suffer the most. I hope she will raise the consciousness of climate change in the US – help wake people up,” she said.
Bastida’s mobile phone carried a sticker saying “Greta has a posse”.
One woman arrived at the marina clutching flowers and a placard that read “Welcome Greta”. The media was also out in force, including journalists from Chile, where world leaders will gather later this year for annual UN climate talks.
Others, however, were nonplussed. One passerby asked if Thunberg was a solo round-the-world yachtswoman.
Thunberg is set to travel to Chile for this event, although as yet it’s unclear how she will return home to Sweden given her aversion to flying due to its heavy fossil fuel use.
Thunberg’s yacht left the British port of Plymouth on 14 August, and the teenager marked the first anniversary of the start of her school strike on 20 August.
Greta began a sit-down protest outside the Swedish parliament in August 2018 to get members of parliament 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.
The 18-metre yacht features solar panels on its deck and sides, and two hydro-generators provide the vessel’s electricity.
Her voyage sparked controversy, however, after a spokesman for Herrmann, the yacht’s co-skipper, told the Berlin newspaper TAZ that several people would fly into New York to take the yacht back to Europe.
Herrmann will also return by plane, according to the spokesman.
Team Malizia’s manager insisted, however, that the young activist’s journey would be carbon neutral, as the flights would be offset.
Greta has said she does not yet know how she will return to Europe.