By Luca Polizzi, photos by Luca Polizzi
Young people from Aarhus recently joined their peers in a climate strike to demand better environmental policies. Thousands of students skipped school to gather for the march on Friday, March 15th, forcing the traffic to stop in the Park Allé area for several minutes.
The youngsters boasted huge smiles and energy, but most importantly, they were showing off incredibly colourful and creative signs, engaging passers-by and encouraging them to join the march with climate-friendly catchy chants, the most popular saying “vores planet den skal bestå”, (“our planet should be preserved”) and “vores klima, vores fremtid”, (“our climate, our future”). Not even the heavy rain constituted an obstacle for the determined students, the majority of whom stuck around until the very end of the event at 12.00.
According to the coordinators of the event, which includes volunteers from Den Grønne Studenterbevægelse Aarhus, Folkets Klimamarch Aarhus, Bedsteforældrenes Klimaaktion and the famous movement Fridays for Future, this was not the first rally organised in Aarhus.
Marie Holtorf, volunteer from Den Grønne Studenterbevægelse Aarhus says that the goal to arrange these events is to push “our government to take action now and to make governments around the world stick to the Paris Agreement”, she continues, “I hope they will understand that we only skip school, university and work because we feel that the future we are working and studying for is being threatened. That is why we are here; I hope that our strikes and demonstrations will lead the government to protect this earth and, by that, our future.”
The protesters seem to agree with the points raised by Marie Holtorf. Most of them were students who decided to skip school and leave their classes empty. “In my class, only three students went to school, two in the other class of my year and zero in the other one”, tells us Alberte, 15.
Students however, were not the only ones present at the rally to call for climate justice, teachers too supported the meeting either in person, either by encouraging the youngsters. “Our teacher told us that it was very important that we got here today and that if we did, he would not mark us as absent in class”, explains Amelie, 16.
When asked whether she believed that participating in climate strikes could make a difference, Victoria, 15, replied confidently: “Yes, I think that being here will help make people notice that climate change is a real problem and that we have to do something about it.”
The Aarhus protest was only one of a long series of strikes happening across the world on the same day. The movement that first began organising these protests, called Fridays for Future, started in August 2018 and was initiated after Greta Thunberg, recently nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, repeatedly called for action against climate change.
Most of the people present at the protest have heard about Greta before and want to be part of the movement she created. “We learned about Greta Thunberg in school”, claims Sophie, 16, “our teacher told us about her and we really want to do our part”.
Greta inspired hundreds of thousands of other young people from 127 countries in Europe, the Americas, Australia and Asia. In Denmark alone, 27 strikes were organised for Friday, March 15th. For many of the students at the protest in Aarhus, this was the very first rally they ever attended. “There have been climate strikes before, but this is the first time I go to one” says Alison, 15.
Greta Thunberg is a 16-year-old Swedish school girl who started striking by herself every Friday in front of the Swedish Parliament, demanding climate-friendly policies that are in line with the Paris agreement. Her story started traveling the world when it caught the attention of prominent journalists and newsrooms. She is well-known for her blunt and direct speeches at the COP24 United Nations climate change summit in December 2018, held in Katowice, Poland and at the January 2019 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
The recent rally is yet the biggest climate change protest in Aarhus so far. While this strike has already gotten significant attention and certainly has delivered the message that students are present and want to participate in a discussion to create a better future for themselves, the activists do not seem to be wanting to stop here. As Marie Holtorf confirms: “We are planning several events and other climate strikes leading up to the elections.”
There are hopes that future protests will have higher turnouts and will put increasing pressure on policymakers in Aarhus, across Denmark and the rest of the world to change environmental policies.