Climate activists look to 2021 to rebound from pandemic

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                Paris, Stopped in their tracks by the pandemic, citizens around the world are once again bracing to mobilise for the planet in a year marked by several major international summits on climate and biodiversity.

                  In 2019, millions of people, led by student and youth organisations, flooded the world’s streets to demand that governments act to stave off the worst effects of global warming.

                  But then came Covid-19, bringing the global movement to a screeching halt, with lockdowns and travel restrictions forcing mass events to be cancelled and activism to shift online.

                  “The pandemic hit right at the moment when we were peaking in terms of mobilisation,” said Nicolas Haeringer, from the environmental group 350.org.

                  Youth activists quickly adapted to online activism, and the pandemic may even have helped groups based in richer countries to devise better ways to include activists from developing nations.

                  The School Strike for Climate movement “was deeply rooted in European youth,” said Haeringer.

                  “The pandemic has been used to rebalance things and build real leadership in global south nations.”

                  While the internet is ideal for laying plans, it is clear that the impetus has waned from movements unable to protest in real life.

                  “It has been hard for movements,” said Clare Farrell, a co-founder of the civil disobedience Extinction Rebellion movement.

                  “We build relationships through face-to-face work often so we are really looking forward to getting back out to do actions in public space, to meet new people and build the movements again.”

                  Dana Fisher, professor of sociology at the University of Maryland, said that climate activists have spent the last year also campaigning for similar causes in solidarity with other movements.

                  This includes participating in activism against systemic racism and in helping people of colour gain better access to Covid-19 vaccines.

                  In the US, “the movement is definitely not stopping, but the tactic of the climate strike is not a dominant form of activism right now and it may never return,” said Fisher.

                  But many youth strikers are undeterred by the turbulent last 12 months.

                  “We’re keeping in touch, it’s great and I believe that there will be another youth mobilisation,” said Michel Villarreal, a Bolivian student activist.