“Du bist schön aber dafür kannst du nichts… Weder lessen noch schreiben.” (a popular song text that translates to “You are beautiful, but you can’t help it… neither read nor write for it…”) These lyrics, blasting out of huge loudspeakers await me right outside Invalidenpark in Berlin. They tell me that I’ve arrived at my destination. Simultaneously, the crowd of people holding up their protest signs, continue to shout, “We are here, we are loud, because you’re stealing our future!” I find myself in the middle of the 15th Berlin “Fridays for Future” protest, for which thousands of students are skipping school and are taking to the streets for a better environmental policy. This week is special because I get to be a part of it. Oh yeah, and so is Greta. Greta Thunberg, the 16 year old Swedish pop icon of the 2019 environmental activist scene, launched the green motivated school strike trend last August when she demonstrated in front of the Swedish Parliament instead of interpreting poems in Italian at school. Meanwhile, she’s as at home in the international media landscape as the polar bear is in the Arctic (for now). Suffice to say that her appearance today at the Berlin climate strike is quite a big deal.

FRIDAYS FOR FUTURE –
JUST QUICKLY SAVING THE WORLD

Category: People     Text: Wanda von Mandelsloh
„Du bist schön aber dafür kannst du nichts… Weder lessen noch schreiben“. (a popular song text that translates to “You are beautiful, but you can’t help it… neither read nor write for it…”) These lyrics, blasting out of huge loudspeakers await me right outside Invalidenpark in Berlin. They tell me that I’ve arrived at my destination. Simultaneously, the crowd of people holding up their protest signs, continue to shout, “We are here, we are loud, because you’re stealing our future!” I find myself in the middle of the 15th Berlin “Fridays for Future” protest, for which thousands of students are skipping school and are taking to the streets for a better environmental policy. This week is special because I get to be a part of it. Oh yeah, and so is Greta. Greta Thunberg, the 16 year old Swedish pop icon of the 2019 environmental activist scene, launched the green motivated school strike trend last August when she demonstrated in front of the Swedish Parliament instead of interpreting poems in Italian at school. Meanwhile, she’s as at home in the international media landscape as the polar bear is in the Arctic (for now). Suffice to say that her appearance today at the Berlin climate strike is quite a big deal.
THE STRIKE – HOORAY THE WORLD IS COMING TO AN END
Although the majority of the protestors are students, the older generations also showed up. There are protest posters scribbled in coloured pencils and riddled with spelling mistakes, from “Rettet die Weld” (save the world) to “Ihr seid high durch CO2” (you’re high on CO2) and even “Eat pussy, not cows.” The music playlist seems to have been carefully curated. Both KIZ’s ‘Hurra die Welt geht unter’ (hooray the world is ending) and Macklemore’s ‘Thrift shop’ have their valid reasons to be on the list. The atmosphere is great, which is probably in part due to the fact that first graders haven’t developed bad moods yet and the excitement and upset they feel is channeled directly into the excessive use of very effective whistles. I was shoved only once, by a sign with the inscription “Lesbian mums for future” and started to sway slightly, but from the left I was immediately caught by a full body polar bear costume with the sporting a sign that read “I’m hot.”
My favourite posters include a holiday photo of Leonardo DiCaprio (aka Titanic Jack) in which he’s emerging from the sea, wide eyed, and above him the words “Year 2050 – …Rose?”. I also loved a demonstrators sign with the inscription: “I’m so upset, I even have a sign with me”. Another fellow demonstrator decided against a poster and instead prefered to swing a large cucumber back and forth in time to the techno music of a neighbouring sound system. I’m not quite sure what the underlying message is here, but I like it. And hey, green is green.
AT THE BRANDENBURG GATE – UNDERCOVER IN POLE POSITION
After about an hour of motivated marching, I head for the Brandenburg Gate to secure my standing place. Nice try. A sea of people have arrived before me, and are waiting patiently for the arrival of the rest of the march. Spontaneously I decide to position myself directly behind the stage with my camera pulled out so as to at least catch a glimpse of the back of Greta’s braided hair. Unfortunately, shortly after I found my spot, a group of volunteer security helpers threaten to put a spoke in my wheel. They actually begin to clear the area I just settled in, but luckily I react quickly and mingle myself in with the young helpers. The camera slips inconspicuously back under my coat, I’m going undercover now. Before I know it, I’m standing in a human security chain in front of the backstage area, holding hands, to keep spectators and unauthorised journalists (like myself) out.
The procession arrives and the stage program begins. A French student explains how much rather he’d be in Berlin for the first time to simply visit the city instead of demonstrating for his future. A German student with a guitar debuts his self-written environmental song. This is his first ever, big performance, he says shyly into the microphone, then proceeds to pull it off casually and flawlessly. The crowd cheers and in my mind’s eye all four chairs of The Voice turn around at the same time.
THE FINAL ACT – GRETA WANTS US TO PANIC
After a speech by Luisa Neubauer (the German Greta) it’s finally time for Greta herself. Thunderous applause breaks out and behind me a group of thirteen year olds are screeching hysterically. A teenage boy on our left tries to rein them in, “She’s not a pop star, be quiet, I want to hear her,” only to go into full fan mode seconds later and feverishly scream “Ahhh, I can hear her!”
Greta herself seems to take the commotion around her quite calmly. She walks onto the stage, unphased by more than 25,000 people and the photographer’s flashing cameras. Her speech is short and crisp. Politicians only appease and say everything is going to be fine, she shouts with a strong voice, but that won’t help us now. “We need panic.” She says. Panic that takes us out of our comfort zone and really makes a difference. The masses are cheering. A few more Greta-esque, perfectly to-the-point formulated sentences follow, and then, just like that, the speech was over. Surprisingly fast. But I like Greta’s unexciting excitement. It accentuates her message: Don’t just talk about global warming, get active and do something about it. Because actions, not words, change the status quo and in turn, our future. That’s why I, too, briefly release my hands from the sweaty handcuffs of my security buddy chain, to cheer and applaud. And in the end, I even manage to take a picture of the back of Greta’s head.

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By |2019-06-17T15:21:25+00:00April 12th, 2019|PEOPLE|Comments Off on FRIDAYS FOR FUTURE – JUST QUICKLY SAVING THE WORLD