The last few Thursdays, Brussels’ streets have been flooded with students. They carry signs and chant phrases such as ‘climate justice now’. Belgian youth is fed up with a system in which their future is put at risk and politicians make all kinds of promises in order to be elected, while the biggest contributors to climate change go unpunished.
The outrage of youth was sparked when Belgium voted against new EU energy efficiency guidelines after 75,000 people attended a climate march in December. Soon, a movement called ‘Youth for Climate’ emerged, which called for students to skip school and march for climate justice. While its first marches were small, their size has been quickly growing. Today, during the third climate march, approximately 32,000 young people marched.
Luna Bauwens, one of the organisers and forerunners of Youth for Climate explains why it is so important to her to mobilise her peers to march for climate justice. “I really want us to be heard. 75,000 of us marched in December, but it did not make a difference. Our climate ministers did not even show up to the EU meeting about the eco pact. I am very angry at the Belgian government because it does not take any initiative to tackle climate change.”
While climate change does not affect Luna personally yet, she is afraid that it will be a problem for her future children. “There are solutions, and still, we do not tackle the issue because we are too lazy, or because it will cost money to do so.” She hopes that Belgium’s new government, which will be elected in May, will make tackling climate change a priority and will invest in solutions.
At the same time, she is also afraid that politicians do not take this youth movement seriously. In her experience, adults think they need to explain to young people how things work. They think they can reassure them by showing some data and making some new promises. We will have to wait until after the elections to see whether politicians take youth seriously or not. But if the new government proceeds to neglect climate change policies, Luna predicts that there will be more protests by Youth for Climate.
When asked if the young generation is sufficiently active in politics and activism, Luna says she thinks it is. She is amazed by the fact that 32,000 people marched for the climate today, only because two teenage girls encouraged them to. To her, it seems that more and more young people start to realise that something is wrong with our capitalist system. “It is nice to see that more people realise this. I have faith in our generation.”
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