Climate change can sometimes be a disstresing topic. In August 2018, 16 year old Greta Thunberg from Sweden decided to start striking every Friday in front of the Swedish Parliament with a sign saying “Skolstrejk för klimatet” which translates to “School strike for climate”. Her demands to the government are compliance with the paris climate change agreement and, moreover, a stronger commitment to the fight against climate change. Since then pupils and students around the world have seen Greta as a rolemodel and follow her footsteps by coming together every Friday to demonstrate in front of their local parliament or city hall under the name Fridays for Future.
The very first time she drew attention to herself was after having participated in a writing competition which delt with the topic climate change. She won and yet had declined to accept the award by the Svenska Dagbladet as she would have had to travel to Stockholm by plane, which opposes to her beliefs. As a result she got invited to several major events covering climate change issues. Her first public appearance was in November 2018 at TedxStockholm, a conference for Technology, Entertainment and Design, which publishes talks from inspiring people. Followed by an invitation to the United Nations Climate Change Conference in December 2018. This year she gave speeches in front of the World Economic Forum in Davos and the European Economic and Social Committee.
In the meantime the protest has also arrived in Bremen. Since Early December a group of about 200 protesters gets together every Friday from 10 am to 2 pm in front of the Parliament in Bremen to demonstrate. The protest is a registered demonstration, which is organzied by six youngsters. They are distributing apology notes for the students that participate, designed three big banners and flyers in cooperation with the Pupil Represantation Committee of Bremen and invent chants that are related to climate protests and issues that can be sung along and choreographed. For example. “We are unstoppable another world is possible”; “Es gibt kein Recht auf Kohlebagger fahren => There is no right to drive coal excavators” and “Wer nicht hüpft der ist für Kohle. Hopp Hopp Hopp => Who does not jump is for coal. Hopp Hopp Hopp”.
On Friday the 22nd of february I attended the protest and spoke with the initiators. Four were present on that day and their schools are the Gesamtschule Bremen Mitte Hemelinger Straße and Gesamtschule Bremen Mitte Brok Straße. They are all 15 years old and this is not the first protest they participate in. I asked how they managed to build up the Friday for Future protest group in Bremen and how they chose their reason to protest against. Those students told me that in school they covered climate change and Greta Thunberg in some subjects. As a reaction to that Whatsapp groups were created. At first just covering the contacts of classmates, but soon those spread to other classes and even beyond their own school. In order to get a clear overview who was willing to participate in a public protest the Whatsapp group called “Fridays for Future Bremen” was made. A Whatsapp group can support 265 members. That was still too much, so a core group was formed and they took care of organising the Whatsapp group as admins and had their own whatsapp group to coordinate with each other and correspond with the Pupil Represantation Committee. Their biggest achievement so far has been the organisation of a bus for 30 students from Bremen who took part in the Fridays for Future protests on January 25th in Berlin. To cover those costs they send students out to collect donations around the protest. With it handing out flyers of the UN 2030 Agenda “Sustainable Development Goals”
To give an overview of the protest I did a survey where I questioned participants about their age, school year, from which school they come, if they already participated in a protest and from which source they got the information about the protest. I want to state, that my survey cannot assess to be represantitive for this protest, because of the lack of scientific standards. My survey showed an average of students that were 15,6 years old and came from schools that are less than 3 km away from the Parliament of Bremen. The share of pupils that participated in a protest before is nearly half and the variety how the protesters heard of the protest is broad. Exceptions were two girls from Verden which is 40 km from Bremen and a group of protesters that are currently doing a Freiwilliges Ökologisches Jahr (Voluntary ecological year) after their graduation.
In my opinion Fridays for Future is an unique protest which covers climate change and students for the first time in its scale. On Friday the 15th of february 2019 there will be an international Fridays for Future that will show in which direction the movement will go. The impact these protests will have is yet to be seen in the future. Because the majority of the participants are not legally allowed to vote yet. Wether or not it has a shortterm consequece is questionable.
All photos of the protest were taken by Konstantin Gaber