Headshot of Mónica Marie Zorrilla

As the Arctic continues to break heat records and rising temperatures threaten biodiversity across the globe, Gen Z views climate change as an imminent menace that will impact the entirety of their lives. According to a survey from Solar Simplified, 94% of Gen Z believes in climate change and 70% thinks we are in crisis.

One of these environmentally conscious Gen Zers, a Swedish girl with Asperger’s syndrome, went viral in September for scorning politicians who have not taken climate change seriously at the UN Climate Action Summit.

In spite of being relentlessly bullied and harassed online, Greta Thunberg never wavered in speaking her truth to power, and her outspokenness became the voice of a broader generational shift of young progressives shouting to save the planet.

At 16 years old, Thunberg is the youngest person ever to receive the magazine’s most prestigious distinction of Time Person of the Year.

“We can’t just continue living as if there was no tomorrow, because there is a tomorrow. That is all we are saying,” Thunberg told Time.

Time editor in chief and CEO Edward Felsenthal explained Thunberg’s age does not discredit her from being a galvanizing, positive and unapologetic force on the center stage of the climate crisis.

“In this moment when so many traditional institutions seem to be failing us, amid staggering inequality and social upheaval and political paralysis, we are seeing new kinds of influence take hold,” Felsenthal wrote.

That influence has spilled into the brand marketing world. Climate initiatives spurred over 100 creative agencies, such as Wieden + Kennedy London, to take firm stances to redefine consumerism for the longevity of the planet. Additionally, brands like Reebok, Ford and Google committed to lowering their carbon footprint by developing innovative, sustainable products.

Time’s national correspondent Charlotte Alter, senior reporter Suyin Haynes and environmental and energy reporter Justin Worland reiterated that Thunberg is an “unlikely” and “ordinary” teenage girl who has become the icon of a generation.

Another first for the 2019 Person of the Year issue was Time’s expansion of nods, choosing to also acknowledge the influence of specific individuals or groups in the sectors of entertainment, sports and business, building upon last year’s 2018 issue.

Guardian of the Year: The Public Servants

The honorees include whistle-blower Marie Yovanovitch, her successor Ambassador William Taylor, Trump’s top Russia expert Fiona Hill, Hill’s Ukraine expert on the National Security Council who is Lieut. Colonel Alexander Vindman and senior civil servant Mark Sandy. 

Entertainer of the Year: Lizzo

Leading the 2020 Grammy’s with eight nominations for her Recording Industry Association of America-certified platinum album, Lizzo brought body positivity to the mainstream with her catchy, upbeat and soulful empowerment anthems. Lizzo is part of Adweek’s Creative 100 cohort for 2019, and this past November, the genre-busting American rapper, songwriter and flutist was also named a Young Influential.

Businessperson of the Year: Disney CEO Bob Iger

Iger told Time that this has been probably one of the most productive years Disney has had as a company in the 15 years that he has been their CEO. “This time last year, we had not closed the deal for Fox,” Iger added. In addition to debuting Disney+, unofficial mascot Baby Yoda has become of the year’s biggest memes (Baby Yoda also managed to sneak his way into this 2019 Person of the Year issue). 

Athlete of the Year: The U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team

Time’s senior writer described it “emphatically clear” when the 23 women of the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team came back from France this summer with a World Cup championship title. The team, which has advocated for gender equity in their profession, transcended the game. As seen in Adweek’s Most Powerful Women in Sports issue, Alex Morgan, captain of the U.S. soccer team, advocated for equal pay.

Mónica is Adweek's breaking news reporter.