Hundred thousands of students all over Germany meet on the streets every Friday. They join force to utter their concerns, critique and their appeal for a politic which takes climate crisis seriously.
Fridays for Futures and other organizations gave a voice to students all over the world. While they were not seen as a political force until lately, they had a considerable effect on the latest votes in Europe and Germany, where the green party gained 20 per cent of the votes.
The students ask for drastic changes in the way we handle resources and take care of nature. Not someday. Not at some point in the future. But right here, right now.
Some might wonder whether young people are actually capable to get a general idea of such a complex topic. Whether they are mature, motivated and informed enough to make such strong claims, like gaining all energy from renewable energies until 2035.
We offered a workshop on climate crisis in a local school for students who were interested to dive deeper into the topic of climate change. The aim was to provide the students with enough material and information for them to find their own answers to questions like:
What is climate change?
In what ways could climate change affect me?
How serious could climate change get?
Open questions, which required them to find answers of their own. Answers not provided in pre-processed material, but in the scientific articles from the IPCC and material of the UNCC, as well as an encouragement to do their own research.
School can be a process in which young people grow into adulthood by learning how to dig out information and facts, to question and inquire into texts and to critically explore a topic. To reflect on climate change aside from views, opinions and believes.
Out of this open discussion a serious call for action arose. The students uniformly expressed their wish to make a difference and the urgency they feel in the need to do so.
One young woman expressed her concern while drawing a poster:
'Do not write: "Climate crisis might change life as we knew it". Write: "Climate crisis DOES change life as we knew it. It is real. Very real.'
The students quickly drew the interference between the scientific data and their own future. A change in climate means radical changes in all aspects of life. It means to grow up and maybe one day have children of their own, in a world which differs drastically from what we are used to. Differences in temperature and weather, in the animal and insect world and in the way we eat, live and travel. The biggest concern was that climate crisis might have the potential to even affect the social structures, which provide us with health, safety and education.
For the young people, to take care of climate change means to take care of their future. A future wide open, but at the same time tinged by a potential threat. Several of the students expressed a feeling of worry and fear, thinking about the future. All too naturally, reading the data evoked anxiety.
This made it obvious that it is important not to stop in the consumption of data on climate crisis, but to take it a step further: to take action. Wise, well informed action can prevent one from falling into despair and the depression of helplessness.
Sustainable activism and campaigning always consists of two parts: information and action.
For the students this second step resulted into a creative, bubbly collection of ideas, suggestions, and initiatives. To learn which actions could potentially make a difference, brought encouragement and a sense of empowerment back. Working in a group provided them with a feeling of community and shared interests.
At the end of the workshop there was no doubt left. The creativity, the sincere interest, the critical questions and the motivation showed the deep concern of the students. They were well aware of the seriousness of the situation and at the same time very motivated to make a difference. In their own lives as well as in their community and in politics.
It is our job as parents, teachers and as community to lend an ear and a hand. The initiatives of young people are an important source for fresh views and challenge old habits. Supporting the students means to take their concerns seriously and by doing so protecting them from depression and anxiety. It means to tap into their creativity and motivation in order to campaign ourselves for the changes so urgently needed.