Climate activist Greta Thunberg receives theological honorary doctorate


Northern Europe


Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg poses for a picture holding a sign reading "School strike for Climate" as she protests in front of the Swedish Parliament (Riksdagen) in Stockholm. Photo AFP, Jonathan Nackstrand

The Swedish climate activist, Greta Thunberg, is awarded an honorary doctorate from the Theology Faculty of the University of Helsinki.

The reason why she receives the award is that "she has given us all a task that extends beyond our everyday choices through her actions", the faculty explains, referring to Thunberg's actions against climate change. Thunberg will receive the award in June.

To the question of the Nederlands Dagblad about the link between Greta's climate activism and theology, prof Martti Nissinen from Helsinki University explains that the university is an independent institute that is not based on faith. "It is not about the combination of faith and climate but about the link between Thunberg's climate activism and science. As faculty, we agree with the fundamental goals she propagates."

Honorary doctorate

An honorary doctorate is the highest honour a faculty can give a person. With these doctorates distributed by the different faculties, the University of Helsinki wants to praise people for their scientific or societal impact. This year, 30 people will receive an honorary doctorate.

At the same time, climate activism connects to theology in some sense, Nissinen, who is an expert in Old Testament Studies, adds. "The Earth is God's creation, and we care for it. There are already some texts in the Old Testament, for example, in the Prophets, that deal with climate change. Many things have changed since the Bible was written, but much is the same. Humans are the same, God is the same, and the Earth is the same. Only the concerns are more severe."


Greta Thunberg is known for her actions to combat climate change. She started her campaign in 2018 when she started a school strike for the climate. She demonstrated every Friday in front of the Swedish parliament building. In response, young people worldwide followed her example.

It is not the first time Thunberg has received an honorary doctorate. The Belgian university of Bergen awarded her in 2019.



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