This Friday, the climate movement again appeals to students across the country to skip classes to join the Student Climate Strike (GCE). The international strike was called by the movement Fridays for Futurecreated following the “strikes” initiated by Greta Thunberg – always on Fridays – that galvanized thousands of young people around the world.
In Portugal, the Student Climate Strike Lisbon responds to the call with a march which will start this Friday at 10 am, next to the Alameda metro, in Lisbon. After a route that passes through secondary schools Filipa de Lencastre, Liceu Camões and Rainha D. Leonor, the march culminates with an assembly next to secondary school Padre António Vieira, in Alvalade, where the next steps of the movement will be decided – namely, what will be the claims from the occupations which are scheduled to start on the 26th of April.
In focus are two central claims: the end of the use of fossil fuels in Portugal by 2030 and 100% renewable energy accessible to all people by 2025.
For Ideal Maia, a student at the Faculty of Sciences of the University of Lisbon, accelerating the transition to renewable energy it is, in addition to imperative, urgent. “If we do nothing for the next seven years and then in 2030 we suddenly close [as fontes fósseis], people will suffer from it”, says Ideal. And he reinforces the alternative: “We can take advantage of these seven years and do this gradually, which is the only way to do it fairly for people.”
There is also an issue reinforced by the student community: having renewable electricity “is not enough” – “it has to be accessible and democratic”, reinforces the spokeswoman for the action.
In Coimbra, the students also take to the streets, with an appointment at Praça D. Dinis, at 10 am. The local manifesto, which calls for a bet on public transport and the end of “animal exploitation”, can be read in the CGE Coimbra networks.
At the Harborthere will be an open meeting at 6:30 pm, in the space A Gralha, with emphasis on the debate on ecofeminism.
Allied students and teachers
Dinis Costa, 16 years old, is another spokesperson for this strike for the climate. He tells PÚBLICO how preparations for this strike have been going: at his school, Escola Secundária de Camões (better known as Liceu Camões), there was a lecture on Wednesday, in addition to the pasting of posters and a distribution of flyers. The rest of the work is mostly word-of-mouth, talking to friends.
There were also meetings with the school’s management, which supports students as much as possible: students will be able to skip classes this Friday to join the climate strike, “provided that the parents justify the absences”. Based on contact with colleagues from other GCE nuclei, Dinis reports that “the vast majority” of directorates do not support students in their activism around the planet. “There are some schools where they didn’t even ask,” he says of schools where “no” has been the norm.
At Liceu Camões, the core group of GCE students meets weekly to discuss the issues shared by the core groups from other schools and faculties, to decide whether they agree with the demands, and to assess what could be better. They also try to organize lectures with people from different organizations so that they can be more informed and “think critically” about the themes.
And they don’t stop there: they have gone, for example, to demonstrations for teachers’ struggle, because “everything is interconnected”. “This is not a fight that is restricted to us”, emphasizes the 11th grade student.
And some teachers also respond with solidarity – at least in Dinis’ experience. For example: the student is preparing an intervention for this Friday, which will be read during the march, and he knows that he will be able to count on the Portuguese teacher, an ally of the movement, to give him her opinion on the text.
“Society has to stop fossils”
Increasingly, the Student Climate Strike seeks to attract other groups in society to its action in defense of the climate, pressing the key of climate justice – the ecological transition cannot be made without social justice.
In addition to the climate crisis, the “huge increase in the cost of living” of the last year is not out of the concerns of students, who argue that “the origin of the two crises is the same: the greed of oil companies and fossil gas”, denounces Ideal Maia.
“Everything requires energy”, recalls the Physics student at FCUL. “When these companies raise their prices, everything goes up, from household bills to food, because energy is being used at every step of the supply chain.”
“The story being told is that the increases are because of the sanctions against Russia, but the truth is that prices were already increasing before”, recalls Ideal. “The drastic rise in energy prices was the result of greed”, he denounces.
Following the occupations of schools and universities at the end of last year, Ideal Maia describes that the Government “ignored” the students’ appeal and “continued to protect private interests and protect the profits of shareholders”.
Despite continuing to be open to dialogue directly with the guardianship, the activist believes that “it has to be society to stop the fossils”, since “the Government is unable to do so”. “That’s why we are now trying to appeal to society to join us.”
Thus, at the end of this Friday’s march, the “action assembly” will be divided into two parts.
On the one hand, part of the assembly will serve to “concretize how society can unite with students against fossils”, describes Ideal Maia. On the other hand, the student assembly will define the molds of the new wave of occupations of schools and universities starting on the 26th of April, which will bring together voices from different groups of students who have been reflecting on the experience of the November occupations. This “action assembly” will culminate in the disclosure of the demands of the occupations scheduled for April 26th.