People’s readiness for strikes and protests is increasing globally as planetary boundaries are increasingly crushed. Indeed, the “Greta movement” has mobilized a great deal of youth within the Nordic and Baltic Sea regions. But are Finns, stereotyped as perhaps humble and calm people, ready for this? We asked the young, Finnish citizen and climate activist Amos Wallgren.
The fight against climate change has received historical attention and impetus in recent years. Characteristic of the new wave of climate activism is a growing interest in civil disobedience along with an increased commitment from young people, not least in the form of school strikes on climate change.
As of now, the environmental movement in Finland consists of a relatively close network of professional environmental organizations, large popular movements, radical collectives and voluntary activists, whose cooperation has been maintained regardless of differences in both method and vision. Most major organizations participate in the same efforts and campaigns to influence decision-making and increase awareness of the environmental crisis in the form of campaigns and demonstrations. An important new form of cooperation has been the climate marches, the first of which was held in October 2018 in cooperation with many actors, including Greenpeace, WWF, and Nature and the Environment. In addition to politicians and activists, Greta Thunberg spoke at the event and encouraged young people to challenge decision-makers by launching school strikes. The Fridays for Future school strikes have since become an important part of mobilizing for the climate in Finland. Although the number of strikers in Friday's demonstrations has been relatively small, the new phenomenon has been widely noted in the public debate.
Elokapinas' (Extinction Rebellion Finland) roadblock in October 2020 showed that, in addition to demonstrations, Finns are also ready for civil disobedience due to the climate crisis. This organizational change reflects a broader change in attitudes to the climate crisis.
Civil disobedience must be understood in the light of the fact that the scale of the climate crisis has become increasingly indisputable, while traditional demonstrations, parliamentary channels and so far, hypothetical technological innovations have failed to slow down the ongoing trend towards planetary catastrophe.
Since 1990, global emissions have not decreased, but on the contrary, doubled despite international cooperation and countless meetings. The slogan "system change not climate change" can be seen as reflecting this lack of confidence in the current economic system's ability to put the climate and the people before growth and the profits of large companies.
Unfortunately, protests and visibility are not enough for a fair transition, as long as you do not have the will of the majority on your side in a country of over five million citizens. Turning public opinion has proved to be a laborious process, and it is no longer only the interests of the major fossil fuel companies and the convenience of the over-consuming global upper class that oppose the climate movement, but also the far-right has increasingly opposed climate action. The climate crisis may well be realized as the most serious humanitarian crisis in human history, with potentially billions of people without a viable place to live in an apocalyptic extinction of animal species.
Only a broad people’s movement for not only reductions in emissions but global climate justice can meet the challenges of the ecological crisis without losing sight of democracy and justice. So far, we, the youth, are paving the way for just that.
Amos is a citizen and climate justice activist involved in, among others, Collective Climate Justice and Elokapina. Amo's longer essay on global climate justice is included in the collection of articles Viimeinen Siirto - Ympäristöliike Suomessa (The Last Transition – The Environmental Movement in Finland), which was published by Schildt & Söderströms in March 2021.