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Rising stars: 8 must-know Scandinavian climate activists changing the world

By Linnéa Pesonen

Photo: Alexandrov Klum

Get to know the leading Nordic climate activists following in the footsteps of Greta Thunberg

When thinking of Scandinavian climate experts, Greta Thunberg is likely the first name that springs into mind. However, the Nordics are home to many other incredibly passionate individuals who have dedicated their lives to protecting our planet. As Thunberg said in Vogue Scandinavia’s inaugural August/September issue in 2021: “When one person starts doing something, that has a snowball effect and spreads to people around them and they start thinking why is that person doing that, and it can plant a seed in that person’s mind, and it can grow over time, and that is something I think we underestimate.”

Whether it's via their social media presence or relentless presence at demonstrations, below are the eight most important climate activists in Scandinavia and insights into how they advocate for a change for the better. As an added extra, we’ve also listed three other notable activists to be aware of, hailing from outside the Nordics.

1

Gina Gylver

At 21, Norwegian environmentalist Gina Gylver is already leading the Nature and Youth (Natur og Ungdom), the country's largest environmentalist youth organisation. Determined to make her home town Oslo greener, Gylver has been avidly involved in climate activism from the tender age of 12 and is particularly passionate about youth involvement in political processes in Norway. The young activist has put in an enormous effort in fighting for the environment by participating in demonstrations and UN climate negotiations, speaking to politicians and holding speeches at various conferences.

2

Isabelle Axelsson

A climate justice activist from Sweden, Isabelle Axelsson has been organising the Fridays For Future - an international climate movement initially started by Greta Thunberg - in Sweden since 2018. Raising awareness about environmental issues globally, 21-year-old Axelsson attended the World Economic Forum in Davos in 2020, where she was accompanied by other world’s leading young activists including Thunberg, Vanessa Nakate and Luisa Neubauer. In 2020, Axelsson also wrote a gripping article for Time magazine that encapsulates the feelings today’s youth possess and calls for action to take better care of our planet.

3

Lina Burnelius

A Swedish climate activist who’s also a leading figure at Protect the Forest, Lina Burnelius is on a mission to conserve the natural forest ecosystems in Sweden and beyond. Taking part in a panel at the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference, Burnelius spoke against global deforestation and pointed out that the world urgently needs sustainable land use. In her speech, Burnelius also reminded the audience that although Scandinavia has a good reputation regarding sustainable practices, there is still a long way to go.

4

Emma Sundh

Running non-profit organisation Klimatklubben (The Climate Club), focused on spotlighting environmental issues and spreading the word on climate change, Swedish Emma Sundh has channelled her reach into educating her followers on a greener future. Also a freelance journalist, Sundh has taken to various publications and written articles on sustainable fashion and living. In 2019, Sundh also wrote a book titled Make a Difference - From Climate Anxiety to Action, encouraging people to join the fight against global warming.

5

Sofia Jannok

Popular Swedish Sámi artist Sofia Jannok also shares a passion for protecting the environment and fighting for indigenous rights. Using her social media to speak openly against the establishment of mines on Sami land used by reindeer herders, Jannok maintains that “it is not possible to save nature by destroying nature.” The singer also reminds us that respecting the Sami’s rightful stewardship of their land is crucial to environmental policies, where the Sámi people know how to best take care of their land and its ecosystems.

6

Linna Gadde

Following the footsteps of Thunberg, fellow Swedish teen climate activist Linna Gadde is determined to fight for a better future. Participating in the Fridays For Future movement in Sweden, as well as taking part in Climate Live Sweden concerts to raise awareness and money, Gadde is setting an important example for future generations.

7

Sara-Elvira Kuhmunen

Together with Sofia Jannok, Swedish Sámi Sara-Elvira Kuhmunen has been one of the most influential figures in the fight against mining in the reindeer herding area. Participating in numerous demonstrations and using her social media platforms to encourage others to join the battle, Kuhmunen is doing valuable work advocating for the environment and indigenous rights. Kuhmunen also works for Sáminuorra, a non-profit, Sámi national youth organisation that aims to protect and promote the interests of Sámi youth.

8

Sommer Ackerman

Finnish environmental activist, Sommer Ackerman is most passionate about agricultural policy and the protection of forests. Avidly taking part in demonstrations and using her social media channels to convey critical environmental messages, Ackerman points out that even Finland, the most forested land in Europe, is headed towards a dire future unless a positive change occurs.

Beyond Scandinavia: Xiye Bastida

A 19-year-old Mexican climate justice activist who’s already attended the Met Gala and graced the cover of Vogue, Xiye Bastida is one of the world’s leading young activists. Born to two environmentalists who met at a climate change conference in 1992, it was only natural for Bastida to become passionate about the environment herself. A leading organiser of Fridays For Future in New York City, Bastida is also an active lobbyist for a more aggressive government climate change action. Bastida also passionately advocates for greater visibility of immigrant and indigenous climate activists.

Luisa Neubauer

German Luisa Neubauer is one of the main organisers of Fridays For Future in her homeland, and the 26-year-old is often referred to as the 'Greta Thunberg of Germany'. A recent member of the German Green Party, Neubauer uses her position to lobby for better climate policies. In 2019, the young activist held a TEDx talk titled “Why I became a climate activist – and you should, too, " where she outlined down the steps that anyone can take to join the fight for a greener future.

Camille Étienne

One of the leading young climate activists from France, Camille Étienne uses her voice to educate people on the looming ecological emergency. Appearing in multiple podcasts, TV shows and news articles, Étienne is raising awareness of global warming and its alarming effects. To further make her case, the 24-year-old has met up with various European leaders and politicians and uses art to convey her valuable message.