"We will achieve something great"

Climate protests in times of Corona: We have talked to activists of the FridaysForFuture movement from the neighboring countries Poland-Czech Republic-Germany about how their protests have changed and what they are planning.
Part 1: Maria, student, 18 years from Warsaw

Our interviewee Maria from Warsaw during a FFF demonstration

What is your name and where are you from?

​My name is Maria and I'm from Warsaw, Poland, but I'm moving for university next year to the Netherlands.

Describe your climate activism. Which movement (FridaysforFuture, Extinction Rebellion etc.) are you a part of? How would you describe your specific role in the climate justice movement?

I'm active in Fridays For Future Poland, I started being very involved in my Warsaw local groups actions, but right now I am more focused on connecting our national movement with international groups. This is also where I'm working most on projects.
I guess my role since April 2019 was very focused on international contacts as the Polish movement was a bit outside the international one.

How does moving to the Netherlands affect your activism ?

That's a good question as I'm not sure yet myself. There is a climate movement in the city I'm moving to, which is Maastricht, but it's not FFF, so I'm considering joining them as I'm going to most likely leave my national movement. Still I would like to stay involved on an international level, so in that part I hope not much will change.

How do you normally organize your work in your movement?

It's hard to call it "organizing" as I'm a bit chaotic in what I'm doing. I'm trying to control everything that is happening on my main communication apps, so on WhatsApp, Telegram, Signal and Slack.

To specify the question: Do you meet in person when organizing international stuff?
We mostly have calls on zoom, as meeting in person - especially in times of corona - is hard. Earlier it was similar, but there were some situations where activists were visiting us in person, and I also had a plan to go to some country and meet someone. But most of the time it's Telegram and Zoom.

How does Corona affect your political work?

The moment when most of the countries decided on closing schools and universities, the international channels literally got crazy - everyone started planning calls and meetings, sometimes it happened that I had 5 to 6 zoom calls on one day. After some time, it was too much and I had to take a break, so I stopped answering messages for like 3 days.

corona and climate

Front des Fridays for Future-Klimastreikes am 27. September 2019 in Erfurt, Fronttransparent mit aufgemalten Motiv "Wir sind jung & brauchen die Welt"

Climate Crisis and Corona

If asked 2019 which issue would be dominating the following five years, the answer probably would have been: climate crisis. In Germany alone, more than 1.4 million people took to the streets under the motto "fridays for future" (FFF) for more climate protection on September 20th, 2019. 2019 was the year of waking up. 2020 was supposed to be the year of action. In January, the wildfires in Australia were the most pressing issue of the year. The world seemed to be ready for an ecological change.

Some weeks later, however, there was only one topic left, the corona crisis. Media as well as governments and personal conversations all involved the pandemic and its social consequences. Still, the pressing question of climate justice has not vanished.

What happened to the issue of climate justice? How has FridaysforFuture continued during physical distancing? And, does the year 2020 still carry the potential of becoming the year of action? We have asked three FFF activist from three different countries because neither climate nor corona stop at borders. Of this we here from:

How do you manage to stay current in the society as a movement? What new formats were there in times of corona?

My movement of course organized strikes on social media, for example posting photos of people holding their signs, but apart from that in Warsaw we organized a hologram march in cooperation with Greenpeace, which was visible on the Palace of Culture and recorded.

In Germany FFF tries to stay open for every democratic party. So they also cooperate with conservatives. As I know the PiS is a right-wing party, but also very popular. Do you (as FFF) have an opinion on the PiS which you address publicly?

As FFF no - we stick to the rule that we treat every political party equally, we judge them only for their climate connected actions. It's really hard to reach people from all political backgrounds in Poland, so unless we only concentrate on climate stuff, we would have a hard time finding people that would support us outside of the left-wing bubble, which isn't big in our country. And the climate crisis isn't something we can fight without being united.

Where do you see FFF Poland in one year? Will there be demonstrations every week again?

We never did weekly strikes, I think we didn't have the capabilities, but honestly, I'm not sure. I hope my movement will start weekly strikes as we grew a lot.
I think in one year we will be even greater, and I don't know what, but we will achieve something great.

Last question: Do you see the corona crises more as a setback or more as a chance for the climate justice movement?

I try to look at it as a chance - right now we are at a point where governments have to decide how they will return back to "normal", and this is a chance to show them that going back isn't what they should do. They should move forward towards a sustainable and safe future, and this is the perfect moment to do this. That’s why we have an opportunity to pressure them with solid arguments and demands.

Interview and translation: Maximilian Marraffa, Weiterdenken