Margaret Atwood says Greta Thunberg is the 'Joan of Arc' of environmentalism.

Margaret Atwood has compared Greta Thunberg to Joan of Arc, praising the teenage environmentalist as “wonderful”.

Speaking on the Extinction Rebellion podcast, the Handmaids Tale author described the 16-year-old climate change activist as similar to the 15th century French saint who was burnt at the stake after she helped reclaim land from the English.

“She’s wonderful and she’s impervious to people slagging her off,” Atwood said of Thunberg. “She’s sort of the Joan of Arc of the environment. I think she needs a big white horse.”

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Atwood continued: “I’m very happy to see that this message is finally getting out there and penetrating, because it’s been a long time coming.”

The author, whose Maddaddam trilogy features a group of characters who seek to preserve plant and animal life, went on to discuss how writers can effectively make political points about the environment in their work.

Greta Thunberg inspires climate activists everywhere: In pictures

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Greta Thunberg inspires climate activists everywhere: In pictures

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In the protest that started a movement, Greta skips school to sit outside of the Swedish parliament in Stockholm in order to raise awareness of climate change on 28 August 2018

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Greta speaks at the World Economic Forum in Davos on 25 January

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Greta stages a protest at the World Economic Forum in Davos on 25 January

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Greta speaks at the House of Commons in London on 23 April

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Greta addresses to the occupation at Marble Arch in London on 21 April

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Greta meets the pope on a visit to Rome

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Greta speaks at the senate in Rome on 18 April

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Greta addresses a debate of the EU Environment, Public Health and Food Safety committee at the European Parliament in Strasbourg on 16 April

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Greta receives the Special Climate Protection Award at the German Film and Television awards in Berlin on 30 March

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Greta attends a children's climate protest in Berlin on 29 March

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Greta addresses a children's climate protest on 1 March in Hamburg

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Greta attends a meeting for the Civil Society For rEUnaissance at the EU Charlemagne Building in Brussels on 21 February

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In the protest that started a movement, Greta skips school to sit outside of the Swedish parliament in Stockholm in order to raise awareness of climate change on 28 August 2018

Getty

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Greta speaks at the World Economic Forum in Davos on 25 January

AFP/Getty

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Greta stages a protest at the World Economic Forum in Davos on 25 January

Reuters

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Greta speaks at the House of Commons in London on 23 April

PA

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Greta addresses to the occupation at Marble Arch in London on 21 April

AFP/Getty

6/12

Greta meets the pope on a visit to Rome

Reuters

7/12

Greta speaks at the senate in Rome on 18 April

Reuters

8/12

Greta addresses a debate of the EU Environment, Public Health and Food Safety committee at the European Parliament in Strasbourg on 16 April

AFP/Getty

9/12

Greta receives the Special Climate Protection Award at the German Film and Television awards in Berlin on 30 March

AFP/Getty

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Greta attends a children's climate protest in Berlin on 29 March

AFP/Getty

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Greta addresses a children's climate protest on 1 March in Hamburg

Getty

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Greta attends a meeting for the Civil Society For rEUnaissance at the EU Charlemagne Building in Brussels on 21 February

AFP/Getty

“You can’t write a whole novel with [climate change] as the protagonist, but it has become the background or, indeed, the foreground,” the 79-year-old said.

“You cannot dictate to artists what they should do,” Atwood added. “They’re figuring it out. You can’t tell them what to do, or it will be agitprop all over again, and socialist realism. You can’t tell artists what to ‘art’.”

Atwood’s comments come after Collins Dictionary revealed that Thunberg was the inspiration behind its word of 2019: Climate strike.

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Helen Newstead, language content consultant at Collins, said the politically charged atmosphere of recent years is “clearly driving our language”.

“’Climate strikes’ can often divide opinion, but they have been inescapable this last year,” Newstead added.

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