Written by Marina Kelava
Slovak youth climate activists: “We are ready to do more direct actions”
“We were scared at first but decided that the message of the protest was important and we want to do it”, says Karolína Blunárová, first year university student from Slovakia. Karolina and secondary school student Katarína Slováková blocked the entrance to the Ministry of Environment building in Bratislava last October. Their climate activists’ group didn’t have a name at that point, they called themselves “Študenti bez mena” (Students Without a Name) for that occasion, but they decided to join Climate Care Uprising organized by different climate groups in Slovakia and across Europe.
“That was our first direct action. Only my sister knew about it, I just told my mother I will not go to school that day. I was very nervous but if it was ok for a group of mothers to participate, I decided it was ok for us too”, describes Katarína referring to the Znepokojené matky (Concerned Mothers) collective who also participated in the Uprising.
While Karolína and Katarína blocked the Ministry of Environment for two hours, Greenpeace and climate collectives Concerned Mothers, Bod Obratu (Turning Point) and Extinction Rebellion blocked other ministries’ buildings in the city asking political leaders to start giving climate change issue a top priority.
Due to Covid-19 situation getting worse at that point in Slovakia they didn’t gather a lot of protestors in one place but other members of the youth group Students without name participated in different ways, from social media posting, photographing, etc. Although people from the Ministry called the police, after seeing that they are not violent, policemen let them protest. They didn’t get much media coverage in the end but they did get a meeting with the minister of environment. The whole Uprising has been organized before the important vote by the EU Council, to ask the government to vote in favor of higher emission cuts than those proposed by the European Commission (- 55%) and the European Parliament (- 60%) by 2030.
“We wanted to articulate the necessity of the goal of 65% emission cuts. Although the minister told the media that he supports us, in the meeting he changed his rhetoric and went back to 55% goal. We were a bit disappointed but we will not agree to anything less than 65%”, says Katarína.
Climate movement in Slovakia is diverse and active even in pandemic circumstances when chances for big gatherings are reduced. Students Without a Name got a name in the meantime - “Z lavíc do ulíc” (From Desks to Streets literally or Students Climate Justice Collective from Slovakia what they use internationally) and they continue to cooperate with other groups participating in the October climate uprising. They have weekly talks to discuss further actions and also to exchange ideas and different points of view.
“We always take a chance to learn from others. Diversity is a blessing for us”, says Karolína who started getting interested in climate issues three years ago.
“First it was about individual action, I stopped using plastic straws, cut meat consumption… I think most people start this way but we don’t have time to change individually. I realized we need to push for systemic change. After the action in October I got deep into intersectionality. I am glad we as a group are taking this road”, adds Karolína.
Intersectionality is at the core of the group’s motivation. They approach their fight with a strong understanding that the climate problem is not about climate only, but also about human rights issues and that working on climate issues means fighting inequalities in the society.
“Social injustices are rooted in the system, it is what created the climate crisis the way it is now”, claims Katarína whose worries for climate started in the first year of secondary school when she already started writing for school magazine, organizing clothes swaps and similar actions. One year ago she met Karolína and other people from the group, now gathering around 10 to 15 activists and supporters.
The Climate Care Uprising was decisive for them to find a name for themselves and today they not only work with groups from Slovakia but cooperate internationally with Fridays for Future and other youth climate groups and movements.
“After the direct action in October we got really excited and determined. We are ready to do more”, concludes Karolína.