Climate change students: ‘Some politicians are starting to listen’

Finnish students joined in a day of global protests expected to involve 1.4 million people, to highlight the climate change emergency.

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Fridays for Future climate change protesters outside parliament in Helsinki, 24th May 2019 / Credit: Atte Ahokas

For students gathered outside the Finnish Parliament, it seems like their ‘Friday for Future’ protests are starting to have an impact not just on the public consciousness, but on politicians as well.

The students were part of a global day of action in 1400 cities in 110 countries, with organisers expecting as many as 1.4 million people to take part.

This week a small group of students met with politicians like Pekka Haavisto (Green) and Anni Sinnemäki (Green) outside the House of the Estates where talks are taking place to form a new government, before heading to parliament for the main demonstration.

With the Greens a part of Finland’s next coalition government, there’s renewed hope for the country’s teenage activists that the climate emergency is being taken seriously.

“Yes, there are politicians that listen to us and at least almost understand the reality of climate crisis. But the problem is that the politicians who aren’t already caring about environment and climate do not want to hear us” says Atte Ahokas, one of the student organisers of the ‘Friday for Future’ protests in Finland.

The protests have been held every Friday since August 2018, triggered by Swedish student Greta Thunberg who skipped class and sat outside parliament as a way to draw attention to climate change issues.

In Finland, students, other young people and their supporters have been gathering in cities like Oulu, Tampere and Helsinki. This week for the first time a handful of pupils in Seinäjoki joined in with their own event; and students in Kuopio made signs and gathered at city hall as well.

The movement seems to be gathering momentum.

Government talks, involving five different political parties, represent an ideal opportunity for the student-lead climate change movement to get their message in front of senior politicians. Even if they don’t always want to listen very carefully.

“Some politicians are trying to help the environment, but because of lack of ambition and the opposing politicians they can’t make big differences. Even if we have some wins and good new laws, the whole picture isn’t very positive and we are going down the path of climate crisis” Ahokas tells News Now Finland.

“We need systemic change that changes our society entirely to a better and more sustainable world”.