Good reasons to support #FridaysForFuture

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Ahead of Fridays-For-Future’s international day of climate protests, we list some good reasons to support the school-striking youth.

1.   No other campaign has highlighted the urgency of the climate crisis so clearly and so directly. We simply cannot wait to solve the problem until the school-strikers have finished their studies. Carbon emissions have to go down drastically from NOW onward. If not we’ll see uncontrollable climate change and climate chaos.

2.   The campaign is a great example of what ‘strangers’ can achieve together when they have a common goal and when they trust each other. At local level, young people with different backgrounds and different skills are uniting, cooperating and are getting great things done. At international level, people speaking different languages and living in very different social and economic situations copy each other’s slogans and ideas. they share each other’s videos and celebrate each other’s successes. They send each other supportive messages and they encourage each other… All this is leading to impressive results. Think e.g. of the campaign in Belgium, where Anuna De Wever and 1 or 2 friends got the idea ‘to copy Greta Thunberg’ mid December 2018. And hardly 1 month later, on 24 January 2019, 35,000 schoolstrikers gathered in the streets of Brussels.

3.   In more and more countries, the campaign is bringing the climate crisis not only to the front pages and to the main news, but also to the kitchen tables, to the work, to social media. Do you remember the “Al Gore effect?” #FridaysForFuture is similar, but stronger, more persistent and more massive. If this goes on, politicians will have to react.

4.   For too long time there has been a general feeling that climate change is difficult to grasp: An issue for scientists, experts and parliamentary committees, but not something to tell about in mainstream media. Now we notice that students, some of whom are only 13-years-old or even less, are able to explain the scientific findings in a correct and understandable way to large audiences (e.g. on television!). #FridaysForFuture makes the consequences and the victims of climate change more visible and tangible too. We used to think that climate change would affect ‘far away countries’ and ‘future generations’. But no: what we do in the coming 3 years, will affect these young people’s entire life. That’s confronting. It gives a completely new dimension to the debate and that should be a game changer.

5.   We can only admire the way the actions and demonstrations are happening: colourful, hopeful, calm and peaceful. We need more of this, much more!

6.   These young people just do it. In politics, as well as in the business world and elsewhere, there are too often hundreds of reasons not to do things. There is no time, the action is not listed in the annual plan, there is no money, it’s not in the job description… It’s really encouraging to see that things can go fast when people understand that things are urgent.

7.   The schoolstrikers’ discourse is science-based. In interviews, many of the spokespersons of the movement prove that they have made their homework better than politicians and other decision makers. This is also confirmed by the scientists themselves: 1000s of scientists have signed support letters in which they confirm that the activists are right!

8.   The campaign is led by caring people. This comes just in time, as too many of us were little by little getting used to demonisation, intolerance, indifference and machismo, brought to us by a fast growing number of populist leaders and their followers.

9.   When you notice all the enthusiasm, you know that this is not going to go fade away any time soon. On the contrary, this movement has the potential to grow much bigger. That is good news, very good news. Because politicians clearly won’t move if they don’t feel the pressure from the street.

10.   The campaigners don’t only focus on total emissions, but also on equity: making sure that the world’s resources (and the remaining carbon budget) are shared fairly among all people, no matter where they live.

11.   #FridaysForFuture is inclusive and inviting, not divisive. The youth’s message is ‘We need all of you’. This is an invitation we can’t decline. Increasingly ‘parents for climate’ and ‘grandparents for the climate’ are joining the actions too. And so are many others. Why wouldn’t labour unions, companies and many others join too?

12.   The activists focus in the first place on their own decision makers: their town councils, their parliaments. This is fantastic. In climate debates, the discussion is far too often about what others should do. Particularly about what countries and people on the other side of the planet should do. Finally the debate is shifting from ‘The other countries should act first, because they are the worst polluters’ to ‘We have to do this together and if we are an example, the others will have to follow’.

13.   Youth aren’t asking for a revolution. This is not a campaign against the existing order or against persons. Youth ask that the politicians and other decision makers read the IPCC reports and act accordingly. The campaign brings along international solidarity too and shows that common environmental targets can be an antidote against polarisation and extremism.

14.   The actions make it painfully clear how badly prepared our decision makers are. (For me, this really was one of the most unpleasant surprises of the last 12 months). Many of them simply don’t know what to respond. Many talk nonsense, become arrogant, angry… We may have thought that our leaders were having plans and that everything was under control. But now it’s clear: they don’t have a plan and things are not under control. Hardly any politician, if any, has come up with a plan that takes the climate crisis as a crisis. Probably they indeed don’t know that the ‘house is on fire’.

15.   This campaign is led by young people, who plan and prepare in their free time, i.e. after school and homework. Many may find this ‘nice’, but it is not. Young people shouldn’t spend their free time to clean up the mess adults have created during their working hours.

16.   Although some schools are supportive to school-strikers, many students are taking risks by being illegally away from school. Even when they don’t face risks of expulsion, they are still missing classes which means that they have to catch up during their free-time or that they risk to miss grades. If we are in a position to reduce their risks, we should do so. Because they are striking to ensure a better future for all of us.

17.   It is strengthening and encouraging to see the thousands of pictures of individuals and groups standing in front of their town halls and parliaments all over the world and sharing the same message. This campaign helps activists worldwide understand that they are not alone and this gives them the strength to continue. Too often, climate activism has been, and still is, a lonely (and frustrating) business.

18.   Many spokespeople of the campaigns are verbally attacked and threatened, e.g. by big and small trolls on social media. The activists don’t only fight climate change, they also have to withstand hatred and stupidity. And they do that in an amazingly calm, admirable and worthy way. Respect! We need to support them in all ways we can.

19.   The activists don’t have super-powers, aren’t super-rich or weren’t famous on the day they started their actions. They are like (most of) you and me. If they can make a difference, why not we? Also: Young people are holding us a mirror and make us think. That’s not always nice. But that is extremely useful and right now very much needed.

20.    The speeches of Greta Thunberg are amongst the best and most inspiring of what I have heard in 20 years of climate action: Greta Thunberg at COP 24 in Katowice, Poland, December 2018, School strike for climate – save the world by changing the rules, TEDxStockholm, December 2018, Special Address, Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum, January 2019, Greta Thunberg’s full address to EU politicians in Brussels, February 2019

Contribution by Steven Vanholme
Programme manager of EKOenergy