(I started to write this post on Friday and then other stuff happened…)
It is Friday, and the school children’s demonstration for a more earnest dealing with the problem of climate change in Berlin is probably still on. First pictures have been posted already.
Greta posted a selfie on Instagram yesterday as she was traveling on the train.
|screenshot from Instagram
I had read somewhere that she had insisted her mother change her way of traveling for her career, i.e. that she give up flying, and when I heard that Greta was coming to Berlin I had wondered. Would she skip more than one day of school, or would she fly, or… But she seems to be very true to herself. What an admirable young woman!
I have been following this discussion about skipping school to demonstrate for action against climate change for a while. And my husband and I had a rather severe discussion about it last week, after the reports on demonstrations. Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Frank-Walter Steinmeier have spoken up on behalf of the young people taking to the streets. Despite the fact that they are skipping school in order to do so.
Because – as is frequently the case with “public debates” in Germany when there is a lot of broohaw going on about a ‘topic’, but really they are talking about a side issue of complete unimportance - many self-declared very important people (read: old male f****s) are speaking up against the fact that these kids are skipping school. To protest. Now, that cannot be allowed or tolerated, no way! They should abide to law and order, and that means they have to go to school during school hours.
(This is where I continue writing on Sunday.)
What the important people are not writing about is the fact that these young people have an issue at hand, and that they have all the right in the world to demonstrate for their cause. Forty years ago some of the people speaking against the young demonstrators today might have been the ones who were demonstrating against atomic weapons and atomic energy. They surely would not have wanted to have their elders tell them what is right or wrong in their mode of demonstration, nor would they have listened.
Yet these old people are also the ones who usually complain that young people are not politically aware enough, that they only care about their digital world and social media – and here they are, they are going to the streets, they are telling us what they are afraid about. They are telling us that our way of living is not good for the environment, that it is endangering their – and everybody’s! – future. What is more important – the future of the planet, or a few school lessons they did not attend? Where are these young people going to learn more important things for life – in the class room, or on the streets in a political discussion and activity?
In our paper I read an article about a young man who started as tree-planting society when he was nine years old, and that organization is still going strong, has grown stronger even now through Greta and her actions.
So their voices can be heard, their actions are important.
My hausband is completely against the fact that the children skip school for their demonstrations. However, he is also of the opinion that they should not be punished for this (at least principals in Bavaria are handing out severe reprimands against the students for any day missed, I am not sure how it is being dealt with in other federal states in Germany). I think it is fantastic that they are demonstrating – and I think, they are only being noticed at all BECAUSE they are striking during school time. If Greta had stood in front of the parliament building in Stockholm with a sign “hej, rättar klimatet!” in the afternoons, nobody would ever have listened. So this strike is only being talked about because it affects school hours, and it is talked about as if it were only a school strike as for e.g. cleaner streets. The people who are against these strikes are – at least in Germany – not talking about the issues being raised. They are not talking about the fact that carbondioxide emissions have risen, despite all our grand intentions. They are not talking about the fact that airline companies still don’t pay taxes for fuel, which keeps airtravel prices at an unjust advantage to any rail travel (where it exists as a viable option).
If I were a teacher in a German school right now – or in any country, it doesn’t matter – I would dedicate Friday’s lessons towards the topic of climate change, political empowerment, political opinion building, anything that could be used as a justification to go and take the kids to a demonstration. If I were a headmaster, I would order the whole teacher body at my school to do that. And if I were a politician with anything to say in a government, I would listen to the voices of these young people and stop whining about saving banks, multinational corporations or other unhealthy concoctions humans have come up with and take every action needed and possible in order to attempt saving it all in this last and latest minute that we still have.
At least sociologists have started looking at who these kids are – but does that lead to them being heard and taken seriously?
However, the heading for this post wasn’t meant to refer to a political statement, really. I had wanted to write about was how this past week I managed to finish a quilt in that very last minute… I think I will leave that for tomorrow!