By Abaigeal Lorge and Zuzanna Kaczmarek
On November 29th, global climate strikes, following the call from Greta Thunberg, took place all over the world. In Warsaw, Poland the global strike was organized by a youth climate activist organisation (Młodzieżowy Strajk Klimatyczny or MSK). The participants gathered at Plac Bankowy at 10:00, heading south through Senatorska, Krakowskie Przedmieście, and Marszałkowska to end at the Palace of Culture at around 11:30. Centred around the idea of taking action, the protest’s slogan was “Enough Words. Now Act” (“Dosyć Słów. Teraz Czyny”).
Although each participant had their own personal reason for participating in the global strike, most of them showed up because they were concerned with the climate, and wanted to voice this concern, make noise, and demand change.
According to one teenage participant, this global strike was the only place where his voice could be heard: ”[The strike is] a great opportunity to share my opinions and thoughts. Where else can I do it?”
It is the noise from below that puts the problem in the spotlight, because, according to another participant from the strike, no matter how much a single individual changes their daily habits, these actions are not significant enough to make a change: “We have to start from the top.” As put by the participant, we as citizens are not in control of the laws and regulations that will make the most significant impact on the environment.
Compared to global climate strikes in other cities, the turnout in Warsaw was much lower. According to a Fridays for Future Berlin delegate, Pauline Daemgen, 270,000 people gathered on the streets of Berlin for the September 20th global strike. In comparison, only 700 people in Warsaw showed up to battle this issue on November 29th. This number came as a shock to a participant, a mother of two children, as other cities saw higher numbers.
This turnout may be a result of the more conservative approach of the Polish leadership. Many of the interviewed participants believe the lack of awareness concerning climate issues is rooted in the fact that Poland is not accepting of outside influences. Thus, many Polish participants were unaware of the main influence and inspiration for MSK: Fridays for Future.
Due to the surrounding conservatism of Polish society, the youth feels that it is their duty to motivate Polish leaders to take action: “[The future is in] the hands of the old, but we need to be the ones to motivate them.” As teens, we do not have the right to vote or make laws and regulations but we can use our voices to call for change.
Although much of the Polish population is still unaware of the situation, as put by a teen participant, they insist that “We are the future of this planet, this country. We need to change something.”