Does climate activism matter?
On 24.9.2021 the next global climate strike is happening – Philipp Steininger from LCOY tells us why climate activism is so important right now and what it has already achieved.
How did you get into climate activism?
It has started in 2019 when I moved to Vienna. Exactly then, the global climate movement, triggered by Fridays For Future, became more and more present in Austria. Before that, I was already actively involved in supporting other socially relevant issues such as the integration of refugees or the social inclusion of people with disabilities, which is why I was also committed to climate protection. I then increasingly went to climate strikes on Fridays, experienced how the national climate emergency was declared (which unfortunately didn’t really change anything), and I also took part in the Local Conference of Youth Austria in 2019, called LCOY, in October. Looking back, I consider this event with 300 other young, committed people and its motivating atmosphere the trigger for my commitment to climate protection. Directly at the conference, I decided to co-organize the next one.
To what extent does climate activism play an important role in changing the system?
In my opinion, (climate) activism has a very important role to play in initiating social change.
Climate activism raises awareness and ensures that the climate crisis receives more attention in the media and thus in society. It creates pressure on decision-makers. Unfortunately, politicians in Austria and globally, as well as decision-makers in other areas, are far too seldom aware of their responsibility to inform the population about the urgency of the climate crisis and the extent of the necessary changes. And that’s why – climate activism and climate activists are so damn important because they take this essential task and create awareness for the climate crisis. This is essential to enable social change.
This makes climate protection a concern for more people, which influences their voting behavior, their willingness to support necessary measures, and their everyday decisions, and consequently also creates pressure on decision-makers in politics to pursue an ambitious climate policy. Ultimately, what we need most of all, are impact-oriented laws and frameworks created by policymakers to limit global warming and its consequences to a level that does not threaten the livelihood of humankind.
Only recently, for example, the political scientist Reinhard Steurer, whose research focuses primarily on climate policy, published an article together with Sarah Louise Nash that proves that social discourse and the degree of politicization triggered by demonstrations can be driving factors for ambitious climate policy. The annual mood barometer of the Austrian population on renewable energies also shows that climate policy demands of Fridays for Future, e.g. CO₂ taxation, are gaining increasing support among the population. In short, climate activism plays an important role.
As climate activism has grown in popularity, what positive changes have you already seen at the local level? Has climate activism made any difference?
In general, the topic of climate protection and sustainability is simply talked about much more than it was 3 years ago, and that is definitely a positive development. No party that wants to be elected can afford not to address the issue of climate protection, although this does not mean that this alone will lead to measures that do justice to the urgency and extent of the climate crisis.
The above-mentioned annual barometer of the Austrian population’s mood towards renewable energies also shows a clear trend towards greater acceptance of renewable energy in recent years. More and more people and communities are interested in producing their own renewable energy locally and independently. This is incredibly important, as the transformation of the energy system is basically the biggest lever in the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. If the population plays along or even shows interest in participating in the energy transition at the local level, this is a very positive development. The increasing politicization of young people, at least that’s how I personally perceive it, can also be attributed in part to the popularity of climate activism, and also makes me feel positive.
What would you say to those who think that activism is useless and just a waste of time?
I would first ask why they think that. Is it frustration? Disenchantment with politics? Disinterest, or simply a lack of information?
In general, I think it’s important to provide concrete positive examples of activism, and also create a positive image of the future, a vision that people want to work for. Showing concrete options for action is also helpful.
Any advice for our readers who want to become activists?
There are a thousand different ways to get active. Find what you are good at and what you enjoy. Team up with like-minded people – try volunteering! Give yourself a break and allocate your resources well, celebrate the small victories. Visit the Austrian Youth Climate Conference 2021 on October 15-17 if you have time and stop by the Market of Initiatives, many organizations will be presented there.
Hope to see you on the streets on Friday! And if you have any questions, feel free to contact me anytime. (firstname.lastname@example.org)