February 28, 2021

Climate activists do not take vacations | Society

Barbara Buntic has turned 18, but now she is thinking about parking her plans to study psychology at the university. "My dream was to study, but I still have to focus on something more pragmatic and become a full-time activist." This young German woman with shaved hair and pasta glasses now wants to dedicate all its energy to a cause: the climate crisis. He feels that the planet cannot wait, that the wound of the atmosphere will soon be irreversible and that after five years in the university, it is already too late.

That sense of urgency is the that moves the 1,600 militants of Fridays for Future, which for five days have met in Dortmund, west of Germany at the first national congress of the movement. Young environmentalists have gathered in a camp installed in a park on the outskirts of the city, to learn in workshops how to achieve greater social and political impact, face beyond Instagram and design protest actions and future strategies.

In this camp you can feel the emotion of those who feel they can change the world; of those who believe they are part of an unstoppable revolution. For many, Dortmund is a kind of initiatory rite in political activism, in which they participate enthusiastically. Presiding over the congress, stitched fabrics hang in which reads "time is running out" or "there is no planet B", some of the slogans that have become famous in the marches of Fridays for Future.

The school strike de the Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg It triggered its latent ecological concern in many young Germans and today it is a powerful and disciplined movement, a reference throughout Europe. Last March they managed to bring 300,000 schoolchildren to the streets throughout Germany, in one of the school strikes in which every Friday they call out loud “Climate justice, now!”.

In Germany, about 500 Fridays for Future groups operate throughout the country. “We are in the expansion phase. Every day new people sign up, ”said Lucas Pohl, 21, and one of the organizers of the congress. The action in the streets or in the offices of politicians has its space for political reflection once a week in local groups and on Sundays through the teleconference of delegates from all over the country, where they discuss strategic issues. In the little more than half a year of the movement's life, they have managed to exert considerable political pressure in a country, in which the Green party rises like foam.

Buntic has come with a friend from the Black Forest, where she lives with her family and where the generational conflict turns green. Unlike her, her parents were not told about climate change at school or the German children's news. In Germany, there are parents who complain that their children pressure them to become vegan, do not buy plastic and stop flying. Meanwhile, the offspring deny the lifestyle of parents who accuse them of eating animals without mercy and of consuming resources as if they were infinite. “Adults do not understand us. My parents accept that there is a climate crisis, but they don't understand how serious it is. That is separating us, ”acknowledges this daughter of a nurse and a factory worker.

Global protest in September

The next step is the global protest scheduled for the week of September 20-27, in which young people aspire for their unemployment to transcend students. In Germany there are already scientists for future and parents for future, but the idea is to involve workers and not just people of school age.

Linus Dolder, who is 16 years old and speaks as a minister, has come from Switzerland by train, to participate in the congress. He explains that they are already in contact with the unions, but that in September they do not want to label him as a general strike because they would sin as ambitious and because he could turn against him if in the end they fail to call a great strike.

Dolder says that the international coordination of the movements of the different countries works very smoothly, but that they want to go little by little, that they are aware that they are now going through a phase of effervescence and that they should take advantage of it, but that they should not rush; that the strategy is precisely to ensure that momentum lasts. “No movement in history has had the possibilities of communication and organization that we have. The problem is that the magnitude of the change we are considering is enormous, ”says Dolder.

Social networks and especially Instagram is the highway through which the concerns of these young people circulate. It was in that social network where many of those who camp today first heard about Greta Thunberg. "We are also on Twitter and Facebook, but that is for the elderly and for politicians and journalists," says Pohl, at the head of the Instagram account of the movement in Germany, which has 175,000 followers and has been out of Home preparing this congress.

Pohl is one of the handful of representatives of a movement, which in Germany does not want to have visible heads. Now they even strive to reduce the attention Luisa Neubauer has received in recent months, something like the German Greta. In this congress, the young activist refuses to grant interviews to give prominence to the collective, after the first tensions appeared in a movement that is suspicious of the unique leaders.

"It's no longer a geek thing"

In the early afternoon, a boy goes by bicycle announcing that the great debate of the day begins. There, sitting on cushions on the floor they talk about the CO2 tax, and the price of airline tickets, while defending economic incentives to other types of transport. Airplanes are undoubtedly the number one public enemy in this camp. "I have stopped flying." "Never again in my life will I get on a plane," are some of the statements of principles heard in Dortmund. Danielle Mittermüller, a 23-year-old medical student, emerges from one of the workshops, who explains that now among young people, worrying about the environment is well seen. "It's not a geek thing anymore," says this student, who says that she has long begun to worry about what to do to not die from the weather in two others. "

Some of the attendees are very young, children. In Germany, the autonomy of minors is encouraged early in families and schools. At 13, Janne van Bentem, is one of the little assistants, with a good boy's face and a spectacular ease. "The scientific consensus was evident, but it has taken a 16-year-old Greta who says we can't go on like this, so they start thinking about it."

While Van Bentem speaks, in a huge esplanade begins the general rehearsal of the protests they plan for the next day in the city center. In the background, one of the songs that was also the soundtrack of the generation of his parents, the Imagine of John Lennon, sounds. “You will say that I am a dreamer, but I am not the only one…”, is heard among the noise of megaphones.


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