On August 20, 2018, Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old Swedish girl, stopped going to school to demonstrate alone outside the Stockholm parliament. She sat there, during school hours, until the legislative elections on September 9, 2018. Her motto, Skolstrejk för klimatet (Climate School Strike, ndr) had a clear goal: to have the Swedish government reduce carbon dioxide emissions as stipulated in the Paris Agreement on climate change. After that August 20th, Greta’s gesture generated a real wave. Not only in her own country, Sweden, but all over the world. On March 15, 2019 the first global strike for the future took place, with students from 1,700 cities in more than 100 countries around the world taking part.
We only have 11 years to save our species. The Planet Is Burning
Can a person change the flow of events? Yes, she can. Especially if with a single action (sitting alone with a poster in her hand) she can trigger a movement that touches everyone: “If she did this, I can make my contribution too”. Greta’s was a public call that received many responses And the reaction of the Italian youth was no less. To date there are 137 local groups in as many cities. Our country, at the global strike of last March 15th, contributed to the record attendance worldwide. And on 27 September, the day the second strike took place, in Italy alone more than 1 million people took to the streets. A real green wave that has taken over all our cities: from Bolzano to Palermo, from Bari to Turin.
Italy was one of the three countries that registered the largest number of participants in the world. But who are the Fridays for future in our country? One thing is for sure: the young people who are driving the “revolution” are not aliens, but really common youngsters. They chat on Telegram, an instant messaging application. The word hierarchy in their movement does not exist. They spread their message with hashtags, three in particular: #climatestrike #fridaysforfuture #fridaysforfutureitalia. The battle they are waging is not only to safeguard and protect the environment for the generations to come, but they are clamoring for cultural and social change in the first place. So don’t just call them environmentalists…
“I approached Friday For Future in February 2019,” Tommaso Felici, a 23-year-old Roman explains. “I am a typical out of town student, I live in Turin where I study economics of the environment.” Tommaso is a guy like many: "If I think of myself before the birth of Friday for Future, I would certainly not call myself an environmentalist. Of course, nature has fascinated me since I was a child. My family has a house in the mountains in Abruzzo and a campervan, and I grew up climbing and hiking. When it came time to start college, I chose Turin for this reason too: it is a city in the middle of the mountains.”
Tommaso’s dream is to become a scientific communicator to investigate the relationship between human society and environmental dynamics. “If I succeed," he says, "it will mean that I will never have to work a day in my life because my work will be my passion (smiles ndr).” In the meantime, Tommaso travels with the same friend, because “why change a winning team”.
For the next trip, he’s deciding between Vietnam and Thailand. And he is convinced of one thing: “Everyone can, their own small way, their part. It is really in the very small gestures that awareness is created. For example, I almost never use the car and, although I really like meat, now I only eat it once a week.”
The word hierarchy in our movement does not exist. Our hashtags are: #climatestrike #fridaysforfuture #fridaysforfutureitalia
The people on Friday for the future do not all know each other but they are always in a touch. Communication works like a chain. The local assemblies choose two contacts that are included in a national chat.
Like Federica Gasbarro, 24 years old, activist of the Roman assembly. Federica, by the way, was the only Italian who on September 21st participated in the Youth Summit, the youth climate summit that was held in New York. Each participant presented their project to combat climate change and global warming. She outlined a proposal related to the ring photobioreactor that uses plant breathing, which involves the absorption of carbon dioxide, and the production of oxygen, to clean the air in particularly polluted areas. These aquariums, populated with algae, are vertical cylinders, occupy little space and do not take away from an aesthetic point of view.
A project worthy of a scientist, yet she says of herself: "I am truly like any other girl. I have a passion for TV shows: from Game of Thrones to Grey's Anatomy, from Dr. House to Suits with Meghan Markle. And I literally love the Avengers, I'm also an avid reader.” Among her favorite books are: “Little Women, the Portrait of Dorian Gray, A Thousand Splendid Suns and Khaled Hosseini's The Kite Runner. And the list goes on.”
Care for the environment was also learned at home: “As a child,” she says, “I watched my mother walk down the street. When she found a plastic bottle on the ground, she would pick it up. My father, on the other hand, has always chosen to ride a bicycle. After graduating from university, I decided to enroll in biology. Then I heard of this 16-year-old girl who was protesting alone in front of the Swedish Parliament.
And I realized that I didn't need to finish my studies to make a concrete contribution. I took to the streets to protest, to go on strike. True transformation is first and foremost cultural: we can all play our part.
"I was born on January 3rd. The same day as Greta Thunberg”, she smiles. “At the first event I attended, there were 15 of us… Today, we are driving a revolution.” And if we ask her what she sees herself being in 10 years' time, “A scientist!” she rejoices. “I imagine myself as successful, I want to continue to give my contribution during the international summits. And yes, maybe even with a husband and children.”
I was born on January 3. The same day as Greta Thunberg. At the first event I attended, there were 15 of us… Today, however, we are driving a revolution
If there is one thing these guys have in common, it's the international attention. They feel Italian but most of all they consider themselves citizens of the world: “Studying International Relations is one of the choices I am most proud of in my life”, Luigi Ferriero, a 19-year-old from Livorno, who dreams of a diplomatic career, says. “Together with taking part in the Friday for Future movement of course.”
Up until last year, Luigi was still attending a classical high school in Livorno: “Together with some friends I started to follow Greta's initiatives. We said we could not stand by and watch anymore, but we had to do something concrete too. So I got all my classmates together, then arranged a meeting with all the representatives of the other sections until I brought the matter to the student committee. And so we started the local assembly in Livorno.”
The first action Luigi and his friends took was to create a Facebook page and an Instagram page. About once a month Luigi meets with the other guys in the assembly to discuss the issues on the agenda, share them and bring them back to the national assembly.
“I don't see the movement as something to be left to spare time,” he says. “To me, as for everyone else, it's a real mission. One that we take seriously. On my days off I go to the theater, my great passion, and the weekend is sacred, I like to go dancing.”
Vincenzo Mautone grew up fighting for the environment: "I'm 20 years old and I live in the province of Naples,” he says. “Campania is one of the most environmentally battered lands. How can you do nothing?” Before becoming an activist of the Friday For Future movement he was a volunteer for Airc, the Foundation for Cancer Research and the Stop Biocide movement.
“It was February 2019 and I was at the University of Warsaw. I had studied science and technology for nature and the environment at Federico Secondo University in Naples and had won a scholarship. I started contacting all my friends from Poland and then when I returned to Naples we set up a real assembly. There is always a lot of work here, and I have little free time. But that's okay. Fighting for the generations to come, especially here in Campania, is more valuable than everything else."