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My Generation Needs to Say “Enough”: A Swedish Climate Striker Speaks Out About Fridays For Future

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From Stockholm, Sweden, we’re covering the 40th Anniversary of the Right Livelihood Awards, widely known as the “Alternative Nobel Prize.” This year’s recipients include 16-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, whose school strike for climate started in Stockholm when she began standing outside the Parliament building every school day to demand bold climate action more than a year ago. Her act of resistance soon became a global movement, with millions of youth around the world leaving school and taking to the streets to demand swift action to halt the climate crisis. Greta has just arrived in Lisbon, Portugal, after a nearly three week-long boat journey across the Atlantic Ocean to participate in the 2019 United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP25, in Madrid, Spain. We speak with Ell Jarl, an 18-year-old climate activist with Fridays For Future Sweden and high school student who marched with Greta Thunberg in Stockholm. Along with other youth climate advocates, Ell will accept the Right Livelihood Award Wednesday on Greta’s behalf.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, Democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman. We’re on the road in Stockholm, Sweden, where we’re covering the 40th anniversary of the Right Livelihood Awards, widely known as the Alternative Nobel Prize. This year’s award recipients include 16-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, whose school strike for climate started right here in Stockholm, where she began standing outside the parliament building every school day to demand bold climate action more than a year ago, when she was 15. Her act of resistance soon became a global movement with millions of youth around the world leaving school and taking to the streets to demand swift action to halt the climate crisis.

Greta Thunberg is not here in Stockholm for the award ceremony. In fact, she just arrived in Lisbon, Portugal, today after a nearly three-week-long journey by boat across the Atlantic Ocean to participate in the 2019 United Nations Climate Change Conference—that’s COP25—in Madrid, Spain. She was on her way to Santiago, Chile, where the climate talks were supposed to be held, when Chilean President Sebastián Piñera canceled the conference amidst mass anti-government protest. It was then rescheduled to Madrid, causing Greta to reverse course and head back to Europe. Greta and her father Svante sailed aboard the 48-foot catamaran La Vagabonde, refusing to fly because of the high carbon footprint of air travel.

In September, I sat down with Greta Thunberg in our Democracy Now! studio in New York. She explained how she launched the school strike for the climate last year.

GRETA THUNBERG: The more involved I got in the climate movement, the better I feel, the happier I feel because I feel like I am doing something important, something meaningful.

AMY GOODMAN: So talk about what happened, what you did just about a year ago now. You were 15 years old. You went in front of the Swedish parliament every single day at the beginning?

GRETA THUNBERG: Yep. First—I mean, every school day. Not Saturday and Sunday, but every school day for three weeks until the upcoming election. And then that was my plan, to stop after the election. But then on Friday, September 7th, that’s when Fridays for Future started because then I thought, “Why not continue? Why stop now, when we are actually having an impact?” So then I and some other school strikers thought that we should go on, and we should call it Fridays for Future, and it should be on Fridays.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s 16-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg speaking earlier this year in Democracy Now!'s studios in New York. Right now we are in Stockholm where she began her activism. The Right Livelihood Award ceremony is taking place here on Wednesday. In a statement, Greta said, “I'm deeply grateful for being one of the recipients of this great honor. But of course, whenever I receive an award, it is not me who is the winner. The Right Livelihood Award is a huge recognition for Fridays For Future and the climate strike movement.”

So we are joined right now in Stockholm by Ell Jarl, a climate activist who has marched with Greta Thunberg here in Stockholm. She’s an 18-year-old high school student who began participating in the climate protests last December. Along with other youth climate activists, Ell will accept the Right Livelihood Award on Greta’s behalf. She is an activist here with Fridays For Future Sweden. Ell, it is great to be with you here on this first day of our broadcast in Stockholm, for you to be our first guest to place us in the place where you and Greta have really helped to lead this movement that has gone global. Why did you get involved last December?

ELL JARL: I got involved because I read up a lot about the climate crisis. And it was such a big problem, and I wanted to do something, and I wanted to help make a change in the world. Then I saw that she was striking, or my father showed me, and I was like, “That’s something I can do.” And it seemed to be making a change and people were talking about it. Then I went, and I stuck around.

AMY GOODMAN: So I should say as we are speaking here, your pal Greta is in Lisbon. She has just made landfall. She is about to actually speak. Others are speaking first at the news conference. And if she does begin to speak as we are doing this segment, we will go directly live to her. Your father is a scientist?

ELL JARL: Yes, he is. So I have always grown up with lots of scientific talking around the house, and it has made me really curious to learn more.

AMY GOODMAN: What do you think of our president, President Trump in the United States, saying climate change is a hoax?

ELL JARL: Well, yeah, listen to the united science. It’s out there. And it’s their responsibility to read up and educate themselves, all leaders of the world.

AMY GOODMAN: So that’s what you were telling Swedish parliamentarians when you joined Greta on the steps of the Swedish parliament. How did the MPs, how did the members of parliament respond to you? How many were you last December?

ELL JARL: When I first joined, there were about 30 people there that day. But most of them don’t say much. They ignore us, or quite a few of them just walk by the strike. Others—yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: What has it meant to you that this has gone global? That so many young people are going out on Fridays, leaving school and demanding change?

ELL JARL: It’s fantastic. I joined just before the movement fully exploded, so I really saw the change and it spreading to more and more places around the world. It is something that my generation needs. We need to say enough and force action to a fair future. And we are doing that now.

AMY GOODMAN: So you have been outside the parliament week after week. But then were you invited inside to address the parliament?

ELL JARL: No, we haven’t been.

AMY GOODMAN: Ever?

ELL JARL: No.

AMY GOODMAN: So what is it like for you to see Greta addressing the European Union, addressing the United Nations?

ELL JARL: It’s really powerful that we are just teenagers but we manage to speak to all these people, world leaders and hopefully make them listen and make them change. And I hope that COP25 will manage to do something important.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to turn right now to the opening of the U.N. Climate Summit in Madrid. Will you be going there, by the way, to the summit?

ELL JARL: I sadly will not be going.

AMY GOODMAN: This is António Guterres, who is the U.N. secretary general.

ANTÓNIO GUTERRES: What is still lacking is political will. Political will to put a price on carbon. Political will to stop subsidies on fossil fuels. Political will to stop building coal power plants from 2020 onwards. Political will to shift taxation from income to carbon, taxing pollution instead of people. We simply have to stop digging and drilling and take advantage of the vast possibilities offered by renewable energy and nature-based solutions.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s António Guterres speaking in Madrid, Spain, at the beginning of the U.N. Climate Summit. What message do you have for world leaders?

ELL JARL: Listen to what the science is saying. We need to drastically reduce our carbon footprint and take care of our environment. It’s your responsibility to do that and not put it on us. We can’t wait any longer.

AMY GOODMAN: What will you be saying at the Right Livelihood Awards ceremony tomorrow, on Wednesday?

ELL JARL: Of course we are very grateful for this, but we need politicians to take action and we will keep fighting. Yeah, that’s what we will say.

AMY GOODMAN: You helped write an article, an op-ed piece?

ELL JARL: Yeah, together with the Right Livelihood and Fridays for Future Sweden, we wrote a debate article about Sweden and the politics we are having now.

AMY GOODMAN: What did you say in it?

ELL JARL: That we are really far away in Sweden from the goals or where we need to be to reach the Paris agreement.

AMY GOODMAN: What are you demanding specifically should happen in Sweden?

ELL JARL: We need to reduce all of our carbon emissions and we need to create a fair change and help everyone change their jobs to more environmentally-friendly.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to turn right now back to Greta Thunberg in the New York studios and when I asked her about her message for young people.

GRETA THUNBERG: My message to the young people of the world is that right now we are facing an existential crisis—I mean, the climate and ecological crisis—and it will have a massive impact on our lives in the future, but also now, especially in vulnerable communities. And I think that we should wake up, and we should also try to wake the adults up, because they are the ones who—their generation is the ones who are mostly responsible for this crisis, and we need to hold them accountable. We need to hold the people in power accountable for what they have been doing to us and future generations and other living species on Earth. And we need to get angry and understand what is at stake. And then we need to transform that anger into action and to stand together united and just never give up.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s Greta Thunberg in our New York studio when she first arrived in New York, when she first took a zero-emissions sailboat across the Atlantic to New York. I want to turn right now to Lisbon, Portugal, where a young climate activist is speaking before Greta addresses the crowd, where she has also just landed.

CLIMATE ACTIVIST: My name is [inaudible]. My name is Matilda [sp]. We are here in representation of Fridays for Future in Portugal [inaudible].

AUDIENCE: [applause]

CLIMATE ACTIVIST: First of all, we would like to give a warm welcome to Greta and their crew, and we hope you enjoy Lisbon and [inaudible].

CLIMATE ACTIVIST: I’m here to present [inaudible]. Sorry. We are a youth movement that fights for climate justice. We fight for climate justice because our house is on fire. And because our house is on fire, we have organized and striked for the climate together with thousands of students many times this year. Our demands are simple. In Portugal, we need to reach carbon neutrality by 2030. We need to keep fossil fuels, including gas, on the ground. We need to provide clean energy for all and we need to cancel new airport projects, Montijo included.

AUDIENCE: [cheers and applause]

CLIMATE ACTIVIST: Because we need a system change, not a climate change.

AUDIENCE: [cheers and applause]

CLIMATE ACTIVIST: We are still far from winning. We know that change disturbs the ones in power. They tell us our country’s ambition is in climate policies, but we know it isn’t. They tell us they are doing what they can, but we know they are not. But we also know that this is the struggle of our generation and we will not give up. We all have raised like a wave to demand climate justice for all, and we need everyone to join us. If we lose, everybody loses. Now we are, like Greta, heading to COP25 in Madrid. We will meet with thousands of other climate activists from many countries, including the Global South. There, we will be protesting once again against the priority given to profit over our lives.

AUDIENCE: [cheers and applause]

CLIMATE ACTIVIST: The seas are rising and so are we. Greta, thank you for having inspired the youth. Thank you for being radical in your speech. Thank you for showing politicians and corporations that we will no more accept the climate chaos they have provoked. Greta, don’t stop, because together we are going to change the system and demand climate justice for all. We are the ones we have been waiting for and we will put out the fire in our house. Thank you, and welcome.

AUDIENCE: [cheers and applause]

CLIMATE ACTIVIST: Now we have a brief remark—because social justice is climate justice, we have a brief remark from [inaudible] from Amazonia.

AUDIENCE: [cheers and applause]

CLIMATE ACTIVIST: Thank you, everyone. Hello, Greta. Welcome to Lisbon. Hello, everybody. So, my name is [inaudible]. I am from Amazon Rainforest. Basically, I want to say that the world needs to know that the Amazon Rainforest is being killed by corporations, by injustice corporations. And I have to say to the world that the people from the Amazon Rainforest are being killed every day and the world needs to know this. I want to say I’m very thankful to Greta to be the biggest and most active voice in this battle. And I want to ask for all of you, we need to save the Amazon Rainforest, please.

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“We Are Facing a Global Emergency”: Greta Thunberg Arrives Back in Europe to Attend Climate Talks

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