Mindanao Times

Young people take to the streets for climate: Who are they?


LAST year a 15-year old girl in pigtails decided to walk out of her classroom and sit on the steps of Sweden’s parliament every Friday with a homemade sign:

“School Strike For Climate”.

Since then, the Fridays for Future movement sparked by Greta Thunberg, now 16, has gone global.

In September, millions of young people on every continent poured into the street to demand action. Today they march in Madrid, where negotiator­s from nearly 200 nations at UN climate talks are feeling the heat of an increasing­ly angry and anxious world.

Some of these young activists spoke with AFP. Arshak Makichyian, 25, graduated from the Moscow Conservato­ry in June a virtuoso violinist, but his career is on hold. When he returns to Moscow by train in mid December, he will come before a judge to face charges, and likely punishment, for “organizing an unauthoriz­ed strike” for climate.

“There is very little informatio­n in the Russian media about climate change, so I started reading about it in English and discovered how serious the problem is. That is also how I learned about Greta Thunberg.”

“After the global student school strike in March, I began protesting alone in Pushkin Square -- in Moscow it is the only way to protest legally without a permit, which was never granted in any case.”

“Now I am not alone, there are students in seven or eight Russian cities striking every week. In Moscow, we do it in a queue -– one person stands with a sign, and then steps aside to let the next person in line do the same. If two people do it together, they can be arrested.”

“For years I practiced my instrument every day, but I have taken a break. It felt really strange to play the violin while the Titanic is sinking. Also, it’s complicate­d getting a job with an orchestra if you have decided not to fly.”

“I came to Madrid mainly to meet other Friday for Future activists from around the world.”

‘I had to fight’ (Argentina)

When she realised that global warming is not just an environmen­tal issue but a social one too, 18-year-old Nicole Becker, a first-year university student in Buenos Aires, switched from psychology to internatio­nal law. Today, climate change is her top priority.

“I saw a video of Greta and asked myself: why are young people in Europe striking, while no one in Argentina is even talking about the problem?”

“I am in Madrid to represent LatinAmeri­can youth, and because it’s where world leaders are deciding my future. I want them to hear me, I want to have a voice.”

“There is a lot of poverty in Argentina, and it has a connection with climate change. When I understood that, and that my future is at risk, I knew I had to fight, and influence the decisions that my government makes. I dedicate my time to climate change now, also because I’m afraid.”

“Those of us living in rich cities are not the ones most affected, so we have to care for those who are -- this is a moral challenge. In Argentina, lots of people say, ‘First we have to improve the economy, then we can worry about the environmen­t’. They don’t understand climate change is making their economic problems worse.”

- ‘I know climate anxiety’ (Tasmania) -

For Chloe McCann, an 18-year-old high school student in Tasmania, Australia, global warming is not an abstract concept. Several years ago, her family home was consumed by wildfires that have become more widespread and intense as global temperatur­es rise.

“Lots of people suffer from climate anxiety, and maybe I’m one of them. We hear all these negative things, and it gets you down. Sometimes it’s hard to have hope. That’s one reason I’m here -- to learn about what I can do.”

“We have a lot of bushfires, it’s a huge thing in Australia right now. When I was younger, we were very unlucky and lost our home. This is still a trigger for me -- I look back and think ‘You know what, climate change makes fires worse’.”

“Of course we have to make changes at a personal level -- taking public transport, avoiding plastic, consuming less. If everyone does a little bit, it can make a big difference. But a lot of people feel they have to do everything, and then wind up doing nothing -- that’s the worst.”

- ‘Is humanity so blind?’ (France/Canada) -

Lea Ilardo, 21, of France has been living for the last year-and-a-half in Quebec, where she studies political science and environmen­tal policy. “Sadly, I don’t expect much to come out of this process,” she says.

“Personally, I live a privileged life. I feel that my role is to fight on behalf of people whose voices have been muted, and who are focused on surviving. We live in a world fractured by inequality at every level -- between

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