Youth For Climate Luxembourg

“Climate crisis and its consequences are happening here”

YFC Luxembourg demands carbon neutrality for the grand duchy by 2030 Photo: Marks Polakovs

YFC Luxembourg demands carbon neutrality for the grand duchy by 2030 Photo: Marks Polakovs

Youth For Climate Luxembourg is organising its next climate strike on Friday, 24 September.  Zohra Barthelemy, who oversees the movement’s public relations and logistical support, speaks about the movement, its goals and how it is wary of being used by local politicians.

Teodor Georgiev: Youth For Climate (YFC) Luxembourg has no president but only members. Why was a hierarchy not established?

Zohra Barthelemy: We see ourselves as a movement and as something that's really dynamic, and that is open. And we think that hierarchies are harmful to this. Hierarchies for us present a rigid structure that isn't dynamic anymore. We try not to have rigid hierarchies and we just want people to be equal, to feel welcome.

Is this because of the nature of the movement?

Yeah, I think so. Because at the beginning, when we started, we were just a bunch of young people who didn't have any idea what we were doing. So, there was no sense in establishing hierarchies, because we were all on the same level […] But also the entire climate movement all over the world mainly functions without hierarchies. So, it was logical for us that we are part of this movement, and we want to represent the same values as the movement.

What has your experience as a member of YFC Luxembourg been like?

Zohra is one of the longest standing members of YFC Luxembourg Photo: Zohra Barthelemy

Zohra is one of the longest standing members of YFC Luxembourg Photo: Zohra Barthelemy

Really good overall. I met a lot of great people, some of my closest friends now I've met through the climate movement. What I like best is that I can work in the fields that I like best. If I have a phase where I want to do absolute logistical work or administration work, I can do that. And then after a few weeks, if I decide, okay, I really want to design stuff now I can just join the design team. […] But also, I think one thing that is underestimated by outsiders, is also the mental impact, because it's a lot of work. And it's a lot of pressure. Because you are out there, Youth for Climate is a movement that has gotten a lot of media attention. So you are out there, and everybody's looking at you. And especially if you're a member of the press team, then people are looking at your face and at you as a person, because you represent your movement. And I think that can be a big mental load.

Is the strike planned for 24 September going to be somehow different from past ones, in view of the floods in July?

We had floods in 2018 and 2017 but they were way more local and less devastating. The floods this year broke any records we had. And I think many people realise that the climate crisis and its consequences are happening here. Because in the past mobilising on climate was kind of difficult sometimes, because it's such an abstract idea. And I think now the advantage we have…is that it has happened here in Luxembourg, in our safe little haven, Luxembourg. And I think that hit home really close.

What about convincing people who did not believe in the climate crisis? Do you think they are more easily convinced now?

I think the floods could have, for some people, been the first step into opening people's eyes. And I think it's also our work as youth for climate to then take this opportunity and educate people and that's one of the reasons we took the whole flooding subject as the main theme for the strike, because it links the two subjects.

What has your experience been interacting with politicians?

It's always a bit of a weird relationship, because we know that we are at risk of being used. So, one of our rules is that if we go to politicians, they are not allowed to take any pictures with us and then post it on social media. And we have pretty regular meetings with some politicians. And on the one hand, it's cool, because those meetings are really interesting. They are challenging, but I love that because you have to prepare well, and it's actually cool to discuss with these people. I like that a lot. […] And it is also really frustrating because politics is such a big rock that is really hard to move. And you need a lot of people to move it. So we are also really happy to be organising a strike again, because then we have more people to move this giant rock and to put pressure on it and to push. So every person that attends a strike is like a teeny tiny bit more pressure that we take into meetings with politicians.

How has the response been here in Luxembourg regarding the strike? Are there more people showing support than before?

As a student movement it's a bit hard to say if school is not going on yet.  Our biggest mobilisation is always the schools. But I think overall the reception was quite good.  We got a lot of messages from people saying “hey, can you tell me more, what is going to happen, I want to participate, how can I help?” Or some adults who are like “can I help somehow, I think this is really great, can I participate?” And of course adults can participate, it started as a student strike but climate change concerns all of us so any adults are welcome, any ages are welcome. Come, just please leave your pets at home because pets don't belong at manifestations. Anyone is welcome. We just always ask to leave the first few rows to the young people. So we don't want too many adults at the forefront because it is a student strike. But any adults are more than welcome.