Tanja Duprez, pictured, joined the young greens to be part of a movement that would help curb climate change
Photo: Maison Moderne/Pauline Hy
Straight-talking climate activist Greta Thunberg has been hailed as a role model for student activism for initiating the school strike for climate movement. But, she’s not the only young change maker--Luxembourg has Gretas of its own.
Tanja Duprez stood as a candidate in the European Parliament elections in May for the green party at the age of 23. While her tender age surprised few—half of the candidates were aged under 30--what was surprising was the fact she joined a party that has no presence in the commune she lives in.
“I was doing my bachelor in Brussels, that’s when it started,” she tells me. “In the first place it was climate change. I saw that action needed to be taken and wanted to engage myself in a movement.” Duprez joined the young greens to engage on a political level and two years ago began a masters in Political sciences in Cologne, Germany.
There she saw how easy it was to make lifestyle changes that favour the environment, for instance there were scores of vegan and vegetarian restaurants and earlier this year Duprez herself became vegetarian. Back in Luxembourg, making these kinds of changes was not so easy, though. Duprez lives in Wilwerdange, in the far north of the country where she says few restaurants have vegetarian options.
Age was not as much of an issue as one might imagine, Duprez says. She recognises she is not a “born” politician and has had to learn by doing, particularly when it comes to things like public speaking. But, what she doesn’t know, she is committed to finding out. She avidly follows the latest research and policy on climate change and, although Duprez shares Thunberg’s view that urgent action is needed to curb carbon emissions, she is also realistic and understands the complexities of climate politics in a democracy. “I think the most controversial is how to get to the zero emission goals. Where to now? Who has to change his lifestyle? All of us.”
What is more Duprez recognises it is for the people to set the climate change agenda. That’s where the Fridays for Future movement, a series of Europe-wide student protests inspired by Thunberg, has been a tipping point “You see that people want change, especially younger people. I believe if the movement is to grow, we really are able to make a change,” she says.
The first Youth for Climate Luxembourg march on 15 March was also heartening to see, she says. Duprez regularly participates in marches in Cologne but to see people in her own country join the European movement was something else. “I got really excited, I have to say.”
The campaigner says seeing these images of a movement reaching a critical mass helps counter the common arguments people have for not changing—that one person cannot make a difference. Indeed, you are never just one person and this, she says is becoming more evident in the use of social media for climate politics. “It’s easier to connect and to form your own opinion, to find people who want to go in the same direction as you,” she says, citing the power of videos and photos on Facebook of plastic-choked marine life.