“We are unstoppable, another world is possible!”
Those were the chants of protesters from the climate strike last Friday in Brussels. Walking alongside them was Greta Thunberg, 17-year-old climate activist from Sweden, who kick-started the global Fridays For Future movement. From middle-school students to grandfathers and international students from the US, the diverse demographic of climate protesters shows that citizens are increasingly putting pressure on policymakers and demanding action now.
Young generation leads the way on climate action
“What do we want?” “Climate Justice!” “When do we want it?” “Now!”
There was a crackling in the air as people from all age groups and nationalities united in Brussels to demand climate action from the European Union. Numerous global environmental and charitable organisations were also present — from Greenpeace and Amnesty International to WWF, Extinction Rebellion, Red Fox and Oxfam. Despite what was at times pouring rain, the atmosphere was energetic and lively.
Protesters, young and old, braved the rain. Among them was Jean-Pierre, who joined the climate strike “like the whole world, because of my children’s future. I’m a grandfather, I am 77 years-old. But I have hope for my children.”
The heart of the demonstration, though, was made up of teenagers and students who flashed colourful signs with witty slogans. 21-year-old American student Elisa Walsh said about the movement for climate change action: “It’s a movement that needs a lot of attention, that a lot of people are ignoring, especially our governments and the ones that are in charge. They need to listen to the people more because this is what we want for our future.”
Protesters travelled from all over Europe to march alongside Greta Thunberg in Brussels and put pressure on Members of the European Parliament (MEPs).
“I’m from Connecticut, my name is Kayla. I study in Spain. We want to join the strike because climate change is a big issue for everyone. And our generation has to be the one that’s doing something, because no one else is. I study this a lot at school, and its clearly a problem. But politicians don’t want to admit it or acknowledge it, because it takes up too much of their time and it doesn’t bring them money.”
Speaking to some of the youngest protesters, it became clear that Greta Thunberg has not only put the climate crisis on the global agenda, but also given hope to children and young people all over the world — that they have the power to trigger change.
“My name is Marcus, I am 13 years old and from Brussels. We are here today to protest for our future. Things aren’t changing enough. There is a lot of pollution. Greta Thunberg is a role model for us because she has already achieved a lot and that’s a great motivation for our future. It’s great!”
You could feel the youthful hope and determination of protesters who made their way through the European quarter. Greta Thunberg led the climate strike of the new generation all the way to the European Parliament, where she had held a speech on 5 March 2020, criticising the European Green Deal.
“European Green Deal is surrender”
“You admit that you are giving up, on the Paris agreement, on your promises and on doing what you can to ensure a safe future for your own children,” she said. “This climate law is surrender. Nature doesn’t bargain, and you cannot make deals with physics.[…]We simply need to change our behaviour, our society. You have a real political and economical opportunity to become a real climate leader. You said this was an existential threat, now you must prove that you mean it.”
She criticised that the distant targets the EU has set will mean nothing if high emissions continue, because our remaining carbon budget will be used up before we could deliver any 2030 or 2050 goals.
“Pretending a law that no one has to follow is a law, pretending that you can be a climate leader and still go on building and subsidising new fossil fuel infrastructure, pretending that empty words will make this emergency go away… this must come to an end,” she said.
This view was shared by a taxi driver I interviewed after the strike. He said:” It’s about the future of humankind. It’s a question of mentality – how we think about the climate crisis. Politicians just worry about their next election. But we need climate action now!”
Imagine that we would report on the climate crisis as we do now on coronavirus. We need to take this crisis seriously. Those in power need to wake up and understand that the climate movement won’t go away. We are not led by short-sighted greed, but by our desire to have a prosperous future on a healthy planet.