Date of Award

Spring 5-7-2021

Level of Access Assigned by Author

Open-Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Bridie McGreavy

Second Committee Member

Liliana Herakova

Third Committee Member

Nathan Stormer


After her impactful speech at the United Nations (UN) Climate Action Summit in 2019, Greta Thunberg’s performance set the stage for her generation and children as the central actors for the current climate justice Movement. Although Thunberg’s activism and global youth involvement in environmental politics were prominent prior to this speech, there is a need to understand the rhetoric behind Thunberg’s performance in “The World is Waking Up.” Considering her global impact as a young activist, the following thesis is a critical, rhetorical analysis of her UN speech. I examine Thunberg’s rhetoric in this speech and interpret how it produces affects. By working deeply with the performativity of her words, I suggest that her rhetoric is a culmination of identification, consubstantiality, and affect. Her rhetoric produces affects of disruption seen in her performance of disgust, most notably when she says, “How dare you” Her rhetorical disruption matters because it breaks world leaders’ trained incapacities to neoliberalism and thus persuades, through wonder and imagination, the importance of a sustainable environmental future. This thesis suggests the importance of children, especially activists with Autism, should have a voice in environmental activism and contribute to the fields of rhetoric and Environmental Communication. Her rhetoric also demonstrates the power of emotion as a persuasive force because of its ability to disrupt world leaders’ trained incapacities.

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Communication Commons