Greta Thunberg and Luisa Neubauer lend their platforms to activists who need it most

Following Greta Thunberg example, activists from all across the world have been protesting with unwavering determination for about a year, raising awareness for the climate emergency in their country.

Words

Anne-Sophie Garrigou

The Beam’s editor-in-chief, Anne-Sophie Garrigou, reports from COP25 in Madrid


 

On Wednesday, December 11th, at 10 am, about 50 climate strikers took to the stage after the High-Level Event on Climate Emergency to show their enragement about the absence of sufficient climate action. The action was planned and staged by climate strikers from all continents. It was organised in support of Greta Thunberg, who spoke at the event before the staged action.


 

“We are privileged, and our stories have been told many times over and over again. It is not our stories that need to be told and listened to. It is the others, especially from the Global South and Indigenous communities who need to tell their stories,” explains Greta Thunberg at COP25 in Madrid. In a shared press-conference with Luisa Neubauer, from Fridays for Future Germany, the two young women explained that they have decided to use their platform and give it to the people who need the media attention. Greta continues: “The climate emergency is not just something that will impact us in the future. It is not something that will have an impact on children living today when they grow up. It is already affecting countless people today. People are suffering and dying from it today.”

“It’s outrageous to arrive at COP25 in Madrid and see how the Chilean government is cleaning its image with empty words,” says Angela Valenzuela, a young activist from Chile. She explains that since COP25 was displaced from the Chilean capital Santiago, most mainstream media have forgotten about the people of Chile. For weeks now, thousands of people have been marching in the streets for a dignified life. “For 30 years our governments have failed to protect us and listen to our demands,” says the young activist. Many organisations have been criticizing Chile’s decision to not host COP25, officially for security reasons.

If COP25 had happened in Chile, it would have been a great opportunity for thousands of international journalists to see what was really happening in the country, and to cover the Chilean protests, to talk about the people’s demand, to see with their own eyes the impact of the Chilean government policies on the population. Today, in Madrid, there is no signs of the Chilean protests, and the Chilean government can communicate on the countries’ efforts to save the planet (sic) smoothly. “We can’t sustain a system that sacrifices people,” continues Valenzuela. She adds: “when countries congratulate each other with empty words, the world is burning out.”

All of these activists have been protesting with unwavering determination for about a year, raising awareness for the climate emergency in their country. “Everyone in my country can be arrested for anything. But I am not afraid to be arrested. I am afraid to not be doing enough,” said Arshak Makichyan, a young activist from Russia who had been demonstrating alone in Moscow’s Pushkin Square for months.

“When I see the impact of the climate crisis, especially in Africa, and in Uganda, where I come from, many questions come to my mind: How many more lives must we lose for the world to take action?” questions Hilda Flavia Nakabuye, a Ugandan civil rights activist and one of the leading figures of the environmental movement in Africa. Hilda started by organising an environmental initiative to clean up waste from the shores of Lake Victoria a couple of years ago. She then used the energy from the Fridays for Future movement to turn it into political actions. She met with President Yoweri Musevenicall, among other politicians, to ask for climate action. “We are suffering the severe effects of climate change as if coming from the global south is a sin,” she explains at COP25.

“It seems that some lives matter more than others,” says the Chilean young activist, joining many voices at COP25 who highlight that it’s not possible to have social equality without environmental equality. The racial and economic disparities of climate change are enormous, and the transition to a sustainable planet can not be done at the expense of the most vulnerable populations while profiting to the already rich and powerful. “Climate crisis is another of environmental racism,” adds Hilda Flavia Nakabuye. Environmental racism, the greed of people in power, the inequality of the transition to a low-carbon economy, all of those topics are important issues being raised by activists in Madrid since the beginning of the week.

“Our lives are not up for negotiations. Our planet is not for sale.”

The young activists also pointed out the lack of political commitment. The first week of negotiations is the proof that governments are talking about the wrong thing, they said, severely criticizing neoliberalism: “a dead cult”, and expressing their conviction that the market is not the answer to the climate crisis.

“47 % of people in my country the Philippines are living in a land that is threatened by climate change including floods, tsunamis, droughts and earthquakes,” explains Kisha Erah Muana, one of the young activist invited to tell their story. Kisha is the young Founder of STEP (Sea and Terrestrial Environment Protectors), a youth-led nonprofit organization composed of young leaders, advocates, divers, volunteers, researchers, aspiring environmentalists and conservationists, and a member organization of the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network. “To the global leaders, this is the time to make the right decision. Every second is a time for action.”

Rose Whippie, an indigenous young leader from the USA, explained how people in indigenous communities are dying, how indigenous land is being murdered. « Our movement must be braver than holding signs. It is up to all of us to build a movement that is centered around the right of indigenous people. It is time to remember how to listen to mother earth, » she says to the room full of journalists coming to take yet another picture of Greta and Luise as if nothing else was happening during this COP. “Destroy white supremacy !” concludes Rose Whippie.