The teen climate activist, who turns 17 this week, met with the respected naturalist and conservationist, 93, over Skype on Monday, as part of Thunberg’s guest editing slot on BBC Radio 4′s “Today” program.
“It’s an honor to meet you,” Thunberg said as she joined the call.
“I’m very flattered that you should say that,” Attenborough replied.
When asked by the show’s host, Mishal Husain, to discuss Thunberg’s work on climate and what she’s achieved, Attenborough had nothing but high praise.
“She’s achieved things that many of us who’ve been working for it for 20-odd years have failed to achieve,” Attenborough said. “That is, you have aroused the world. I’m very grateful to you. We all are.”
The teen activist, who was recently named Time magazine’s Person of the Year for 2019 for starting a worldwide youth climate movement, told Attenborough that documentaries about what was happening in the natural world were what inspired her to take action.
“Thank you for dedicating your life to this,” she said. “It’s very inspiring.”
The teenager rose to global fame when she began a campaign at age 15, skipping school each Friday to demonstrate outside Sweden’s parliament. The “School Strike for Climate” events now take place in more than 125 countries with millions of participants.
Attenborough, famed for his many television series illustrating the effects of environmental degradation on flora and fauna around the world, said that he’d tried to urge changes in policy and daily life decades ago in order to save the environment, but “no one took a blind bit of notice.”
He said it was depressing when governments such as those in Brazil, Australia and the United States, turned a blind eye to the problem, and he pointed to how little climate change was mentioned in the recent British election.
“The only reason that it has been mentioned even that much is because of you. You have woken up the world,” Attenborough said.
Both Thunberg and Attenborough called on politicians from every government to ensure a positive outcome at the 2020 U.N. climate talks in Scotland.