June 11, 2021 Greta is back! Suston asks her what’s next for Fridays For Future
On Friday June 11, climate activist Greta Thunberg and a handful of striking youth returned to their post outside the Swedish Parliament for the first time since autumn 2020. Suston asks what the world can expect now that Fridays For Future is back.
“Well, I wouldn’t say we’re back, because we were never really gone,” corrects Greta Thunberg.
“We just went digital.”
This is in fact week number 147 of the “School Strike For Climate” or “Fridays For Future,” which first began back in August 2018 when the then-ninth grader Thunberg and a small group of youth initiated a movement that would quickly grow to 14 million strikers demanding climate action. Fridays For Future’s seemingly unstoppable growth on city streets worldwide was just as quickly reduced to zero, however, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This is our first time physically meeting back here since October. With the corona restrictions we’re just allowed 30 people before we need to leave.”
As such, their return was completely unannounced. No crowds, no press – just a handful of young activists patiently bearing protest signs.
One of these fellow strikers is Isabelle Axelsson, who has been organizing Fridays For Future demonstrations and events since 2018. Though a face mask hides her smile, she’s clearly happy to be back.
“It feels very nostalgic standing here,” says Axelsson, observing the small reunion around her:
“This is a bit more like how it was in the very beginning.”
Lessons learned during the pandemic
As the pandemic made physical meetings impossible, Fridays For Future turned to virtual meetings to maintain its momentum and pressure on world leaders. But for Thunberg, the human costs of the pandemic far outweigh any educational benefits they may have gained through it.
Axelsson, meanwhile, acknowledges that one lesson in particular stands out:
“If we’d focused on climate when the warnings first came out, we wouldn’t be in this situation. The pandemic has shown that we can act when necessary, so the issue is not if we have the power to change, but how highly we prioritize the threat.”
What next for Fridays For Future?
2020 was meant to be a pivotal year for international climate action with the UN #COP26 conference scheduled in Scotland. While the conference is now rescheduled for fall 2021, the pandemic has effectively put this and much of the international climate agenda on hold. But even as COVID-19 restrictions are loosening worldwide and optimism grows, the future of the Fridays For Future movement remains uncertain.
“It’s just impossible to say right now,” says Thunberg, pointing to both current travel restrictions and group size limitations. For now, Thunberg plans to continue meeting up at the Swedish Parliament each Friday throughout the summer, bearing the same message to world leaders as always:
“We need to treat this like the crisis it is,” says Thunberg, who continues:
“We must act based on the science.”
ABOUT FRIDAYS FOR FUTURE
Fridays For Future is a movement that began in August 2018, after 15-year-old Greta Thunberg and other young activists sat in front of the Swedish parliament every schoolday for three weeks, to protest against the lack of action on the climate crisis. She posted what she was doing on Instagram and Twitter, and it soon went viral.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Fridays For Future strikers numbered 14 million and strikes were taking place globally in 7,500 cities and on every continent.