The students marching for action against climate change will go on until they see real change, according to Anuna De Wever, the 17-year-old instigator of the movement. De Wever was being interviewed by the VRT on the day students marching in Brussels reached numbers of between 12,500 and 14,000, depending on who was doing the estimating. In the first march last week, 3,000 students took time off classes to attend. Since then, not only did widespread publicity swell numbers on the Flemish side, but they were joined by school students from French-speaking schools, increasing the numbers more than fourfold.
And so they intend to go on, she told interviewer Martine Tanghe. “We have to keep hammering on the same nail and hope it goes international. Let’s change the world.”
She acknowledged the influence of 15-year-old Swedish student Greta Thunberg, who plays truant every Friday in support of action on climate change. “I found that so tremendously inspiring that I thought, we have to keep this going.”
She also recognised the task is not one for school students alone. Everyone has a role to play, she said. For example, she takes public transport everywhere, is a vegetarian, flies as little as possible and turns down the heating and wears heavier clothing – all examples anyone can follow.
“But the government also has a huge role to play, and it’s not living up to it. We will go on until we see some change. For example during the coming legislature, whichever party is in power, the climate has to be a priority. There needs to be enough money in the annual budget for climate action. That has to be at the top of the agenda, because right now it isn’t.”
De Wever was speaking after a meeting between a delegation from her movement and ministers from the Flemish government – deputy minister-president Liesbeth Homans, environment minister Joke Schauvliege and energy minister Lydia Peeters. “Nothing was promised, but I felt we were being listened to,” she said. “They admitted the need for a more ambitious approach, and the need to do very much more. I hope our message got through that something has got to happen, even if it means taking drastic measures.”