"We can tackle the crises if there is political will"

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 3: Marek, student from Prague, 19 years old

Fridays for Future demonstration in Brno, Czech Republic

What is your name and where are you from?

My name is Marek Jankovský, I'm a student from Prague, Czech Republic.

Please describe your role in your movement. What are your tasks?

In the Czech branch of the Fridays For Future movement, I participate in a variety of working groups, ranging from our PR and spokespersons' group to administration and finance. My tasks differ based on both how much free time I have and how much work there is in my working groups. Currently, I'm mainly focusing on developing our long-term strategy for the movement and a general communication strategy, which would simplify a lot of our current processes. We do this in our strategy working group.

How do you normally organize your activism in your movement in the Czech Republic?

As a movement, we organize ourselves through internet communication platforms, which allows activists from all over Czech Republic to participate in our processes. Our structure operates on three levels - local, regional and national. Each of the three levels focuses on different tasks depending on what is happening in the area and other factors.

You talk about tasks depending on the region. Do you have specific Czech topics or political goals you want to achieve as movement (for example, the car-industry is a specific topic in Germany)?

Yes, there are several topics that are specific for the Czech Republic. One of them is our coal industry, which is still one of the biggest ones in the EU. 47 % of energy comes from coal in the Czech Republic and a lot of coal-produced energy is also exported to neighboring countries. Despite that, the government has not yet decided on a date when coal mining and burning will be ceased. We are expecting the decision to come by the end of this year, as the government and its coal commission have indicated. As this is a big topic for the Czech Republic, we communicate it a lot in the media and during our actions. Another climate-problem which the Czech Republic is suffering from is drought. This year, we are experiencing the worst drought in 500 years, and that is despite the heavy precipitation/rainfall in the last few weeks. So, we also communicate that a lot.

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 does corona affect your activism?

As most of our work and communication takes place online, we weren't affected that much for most of our work, quite the opposite. Many of us were more flexible with their time due to schools being closed, which allowed us to get more work done than usual. As for our events, however, we did have to cancel several protests and other actions we had planned. As a replacement, we held several online events.

The corona crisis led to a new agenda instead of the climate crisis. Do you think that the corona crisis has set you back in your work?

I wouldn't say that Corona was a step back in climate action, no. As the entire planet was basically shut down for several months, it only shows how quickly worldwide crises can be tackled if there is political will. If the reaction to the climate crisis had been so immediate back 30 years ago when the evidence was clear, we wouldn’t have this problem now. And we did stress that throughout our online events. So, I rather see the coronavirus as a, in a way, opportunity to refocus on all the crises we are facing.
Also, we stress the need of a green recovery. Some of the financial sources the EU is preparing as part of the European Green Deal, such as the Just Transition Fond, can serve as a solution to both the climate crisis and the coronavirus crisis. But we need to stress that we don't want to go back to business as usual and that things need to change.

Thank you very much. I have one last question: What is the event, thing or achievement you are most looking forward to facing the future with FFF?

Well, in the long term, it would be the EU reaching climate neutrality. But that will happen in 30 years or hopefully less. But it is still a lookout into the future. As for what is to come in the next few years, I would really consider it a big achievement if climate change would become the main or at least a major topic of the next parliamentary elections in the Czech Republic in 2021. But to achieve that, we still have a lot of work ahead of us.

Interview and translation: Maximilian Marraffa, Weiterdenken