While some still fail to understand the difference between weather and climate (yes, we are looking at you, Mr. Trump, and others debate if, how or when to take action, a whole generation is at stake. Every time decision makers out profit first, they commit a crime against a child that deserves a future, and against children not yet born. People stick to the status quo and the older one gets the harder it is to change. The younger generation, those teenagers still too young to vote or form the present stand up for our planet and fight for a future that for now looks bleak.
No matter if we speak of climate change or climate crisis the facts remain the same and those facts are known for decades. A whole generation ignored and denied the urgency with which we should have trying to solve the issue. The problem with facts is that they are faceless, dry and lack emotion. Greta Thunberg gave the crisis a voice but the Generation Change consists of many faces. All of them have a voice, all of them have fears, and hopes. The generation that is fighting for their future is smarter and more forward-looking than many of us were with 13, or even 17. Lacuna had the pleasure to meet six of these inspiring teenagers to talk about the climate crisis, their future and the hope in the dark.
When was the first time you dealt with the topic of climate change?
Lilli: I was very young because my family is very environmentally conscious. I have always been very special with trees. When I was three years old, a tree was felled in our neighborhood and I started crying because I didn’t understand how people can do this. Over time, the topic became more and more important to me, because I became aware of the consequences climate change can have.
Paula: I got interested in politics and climate change is a part of that.
Narges: I was beginning to think about climate protection when I came here from Norway. In Norway, nature is very beautiful. In comparison, Germany does not have so much nature, but so much more traffic and so many skyscrapers.
Levi: I became very aware of it in the American presidential elections because of Trump, who doesn’t believe in climate change.
Do you want to take up a profession that has something to do with climate protection?
Levi: At first glance, I think it’s going in the other direction because I want to do astrophysics or mechanical engineering. But I think you can combine aviation and machinery with climate protection. You can’t make clean machines if no one with the technical background is involved. I hope that in a few years‘ time there won’t be any other option but to make sure that it’s environmentally friendly, for example when building a rocket.
Peer: I would like to do something creative. In the direction of theatre or video production. You can use it to draw a lot of people’s attention to the issue of climate protection.
Narges: I want to be an art teacher. The topics I paint are about nature and the environment.
Lilli: I definitely want to study veterinary medicine. I want to go to Africa and help a national park because there you have a lot more to do with nature and you can help to protect different species.
You are all committed to Fridays4Future. What do you expect from the strikes?
Lilli: I hope that as many people as possible will become aware and start to live more consciously. But also that the politicians become aware of the protests and take action. Climate change has been talked about for years, but nothing is ever done. I hope that we will reduce overall consumption. We don’t even consume everything. We produce a lot, then more than half of it is thrown away. I just don’t understand this madness.
Levi: I believe that the strike is there to make people aware and to put pressure on politicians.
Ada: Politicians don´t act if the masses from below don’t put pressure on them.
Paula: But the pressure from the students will not be enough. We’ve been doing this for months now and not much has happened.
Ada: I think we can increase the pressure by mobilizing more people, especially other age groups. It is important that we mobilize the people who are employed and eligible to vote.
Levi: What will make politicians, even more, change their minds is when they notice in the next election, for example, that people are voting more for the Green party. That’s why Parents4Future is very important to make politicians see that it could influence their re-election. Which is a bit sad, but if that’s the only way, then we’ll go that way.
Narges: I hope that the politicians will understand that there is only one earth.
Are you disappointed by the disinterest of many adults?
Paula: I am disappointed quite often. I have the feeling that we do so much and try to change something and the adults don’t take it as seriously as we do, even though we are their children.
Lilli: There are also many adults who also support us. But I am disappointed by those who either smile at us or are completely against what we are doing because they say, we have to go to school. I have my goals, too, I want to graduate from high school, but I think I can also fight for my future and the future generations and all the species that live on this planet.
Our math teacher said that we have to come to the math test on Friday. If we didn’t graduate because of this math test, then it wouldn’t help us that the environment would be more beautiful and flowers would bloom everywhere. I found that so ironic. What is the use of good grades if the environment is so destroyed that life is no longer worth living?
Levi: My parents took the initiative and I came to it later. This is also very much due to my social environment. My mother is very active at Parents4Future.
Peer: Above all, I am disappointed by the politicians who praise us, but then do nothing for climate policy, or do things which are bad for the climate.
Let’s talk about politics.
Lilli: We talked at school about electing a party that could achieve something and not just small parties. But I do not really find anything in the larger parties that corresponds to my opinion and represents what I want to stand for. I don’t think I’d be satisfied if I elected a party that achieved something, but then achieved things that I didn’t want.
Peer: Even if there is no party that meets all my expectations, that you choose the lesser evil, because if you don’t vote at all, you automatically support the winners. And those are often the ones who do nothing for climate policy.
Paula: I think even the Green party is still too slow when it comes to climate change.
Why do you think politicians do so little?
Levi: It could be the check from Shell or other oil companies.
Ada: I think lobbyists also have a big influence.
Levi: I believe that in addition to lobbying, people don’t understand where the problem lies. If you don’t understand climate change as a principle, then you don’t do anything about it.
Peer: I think if people start to learn about climate change, they will realize that it’s important and that it’s something they care about.
Ada: Fridays for Future is having a fact flyer that is distributed. I think that people get more information is one of the most important things.
What are you doing to protect the environment?
Narges: At school, we have a group where we build our own bike and then use it to get to school instead of the S-Bahn or U-Bahn. Many teachers don´t use their cars but the bike instead.
Ada: My family doesn’t travel by plane anymore, we would rather travel by train.
Paula: Ada and I have been vegetarians for years.
Lilli: I also try to eat consciously. I make sure that the eggs and milk products come only from free-range farming and are organic. You can’t always trust this seal though, and that’s a shame. I think we should do our utmost, but in the end, we have to tell the decision makers that they have to change something. We cannot live without plastic when everything is wrapped in plastic. That, in my view, is the problem.
Peer: I think that is an important point. If politics did something, it would also force many other people to live more consciously. A really big change can only be achieved through politics.
Paula: I think if I knew that it would really help, then I would give up pretty much anything. If people told me that I had to give up my mobile phone, that I was no longer allowed to watch TV or fly, I would do all that if it could stop climate change.
Levi: You should limit it moderately. I wouldn’t say that the whole world has to live vegetarian. But if you stop intensive livestock farming and stop packing everything in plastic, it would already change a bit. Big changes are preferable, but even small things can have a big effect when everyone is involved.
What are your biggest fears for the future?
Narges: I am afraid that the forests will be destroyed. The trees are important for the climate, as are the species who live in the rain forest.
Peer: I fear that the polar caps are melting even more and the sea level is rising and whole cities and countries are being flooded.
Ada: I don’t let fear come up too often. It is very frightening when you consider that Southeast Asia will have so many days of heat that the people have to leave.
Paula: My worst fear is that climate change can no longer be stopped. Society may collapse. We will no longer have enough food for everyone because it will be too hot to grow anything. The last summer in Germany was extremely hot and dry and it led to a lot of problems. My worst fear is that there are refugees and people who are dying of hunger because we don’t have enough food for everyone.
Lilli: If you say it radically, then my fear is that the world will be destroyed because of climate change.
Levi: We are already not capable of coping with the problem and it will get even worse in the coming years. I don’t see how we’re going to manage this.
How will the world look like when you are adults?
Peer: If we continue like this, there will be a lot of natural disasters, also in Germany, and not only in the rest of the world.
Lilli: It will be much more concrete and less green because the industry is constantly developing and I think it should be more important to take nature into account. I wished it would be greener in the future, but it is more realistic that more technology is being developed.
Narges: There will be no humanity because we are all so busy with technology that we are no longer in touch with nature.
Do you think climate change can still be stopped?
Ada: In theory, you can stop climate change, but then the industrialized countries would have to take immediate action.
Levi: I’d almost say it’s too late. In politics, things take forever. Look at Brexit. One country is trying to get out of an alliance, you give it two years and it doesn’t even make it. Now we want to change the complete energy structure of the world in ten years, which should be a goal, but my optimism is limited.
Is there something that gives you hope?
Peer: Yes, you can see that the strikes are drawing more attention. Even if the politicians still smile down at us now, they become aware of our existence. Climate emergency was declared in Aachen and that is a good sign.
Ada: I think it’s good that the topic is increasingly debated in the media. Now the interest has to turn into action.
Levi: What strikes me when you really try, you can change something very quickly. We have extremely little plastic waste at home and we are six people. It doesn’t necessarily take much to do something about it.
Lilli: I have hope too, that’s what drives me. On the one hand, it’s anger, but without hope, you wouldn’t be able to fight for the future.