For months, students have skipped school on Fridays to ask for more action against climate change. To kick off the Global Week for Future, last Friday saw thousands of demonstrations in many countries around the globe, with not only high school students joining the fray, but people from all walks of life. GFZ Potsdam’s Bernhard Steinberger and Thilo Wrona share their experiences in Potsdam and Berlin.
Potsdam – Bernhard Steinberger
As part of the global climate strike on September 20, a 5,200-person-strong demonstration took place in Potsdam. To get to the demonstration, I and about 50 other employees of the institutions on Telegraph Hill – the GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences, Alfred Wegener Institute (AWI) and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) – participated in a “critical mass” bicycle ride from the Hill to the city centre.
After several speakers briefly introduced the different organizations that supported the demonstration initiated by Fridays for Future, Prof. Dr. Stefan Rahmstorf from PIK addressed the crowds, speaking on behalf of Scientists for Future (S4F). Rahmstorf pointed out that even though the German Government has now decided what Climate Protection measures to take, this is not the time to relax. It is not sure whether these measures will be sufficient to reach the Government’s climate goals for 2030, and even if they are, those goals are not compatible with the Paris climate agreement, which would require an even larger drop in CO2 emissions. This is especially the case, since Germany’s per capita CO2 emissions are about twice the global average. So, in light of climate justice, Germany would need to reduce its emissions more strongly than other countries currently emitting less. Rahmstorf thanked Fridays for Future for putting the government under pressure to act and emphasized that the fight was far from over.
After the speeches, the protest march started moving through the Potsdam City centre towards the Brandenburg Gate (the one in Potsdam, not in Berlin). There, accompanied by the Queen-song Another one bites the dust, everybody lay down on the ground in a “die-in”. Then the demonstrators returned to Alter Markt for free rice and pea soup – of course, with reusable plates and spoons. For the grand finale, a band played live music on stage.
Berlin – Thilo Wrona
On Friday, I went to the climate demonstration in Berlin organized by Fridays for Future. Arriving at the Brandenburg Gate, I was greeted by a large crowd of people (100.000 – 270.000 depending on whom you ask). I met people of all ages, from young pupils singing their own interpretation of Last Christmas to Rentner (senior citizens) For Future demonstrating that they too are worried about the future. There were speeches, songs and vegan soup at the Brandenburg Gate before the parade and, because it’s Berlin, a rave at Potsdamer Platz afterwards. The parade went on a loop through Berlin starting at the Brandenburg Gate and finishing in front of the Parliament, where the government had just agreed on a new piece of legislation on climate (Klimapaket) the evening before. I later found out that there were many acts of protest on this day ranging from climate-conscious companies giving all their employees a day off to roadblocks across Berlin organized by the demonstrators.