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Portuguese Youth Climate Strike

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Portuguese students from across the country will miss school this Friday to protest against climate change.

It took “probably less than a week” for the young group of students to come up with and organise the movement responsible for the climate strike taking place on March 15. Inserted in the international movement “SchoolStrike4Climate” and “FridaysForFuture” the strike is scheduled to take place in over 20 cities such as Lisbon, Oporto and Coimbra.

It all started with Matilde Alvim, a student from Palmela high school, and the responsible for the youth strike in Lisbon. Matilde had heard of Greta Thunberg’s work, and like millions of young people around the world, became inspired to bring the movement to her own country.

She then began discussing the subject with her friends. One of them was Bárbara Pereira, a student in Colégio Internato dos Carvalhos. “I think we can do this, I think it’s essential that we take action”, says Bárbara, recounting the moment Matilde first contacted her about the issue.

Rita Vasconcelos, a law student in Coimbra, says that when she first became part of the organisation of the Portuguese youth strike movement there were “something like 19 people”. Since then, it has grown exponentially. “It’s decentralised” and it functions through “networking”, using everything from emails, posters and social media, to telling friends and other colleagues to spread the word.

The students cannot predict the number of people that will be leaving their house to join them on 15th of March, but they assure that no amount of complications will stop them from fighting for their planet.

Even though some difficulties have surfaced, the students claim that for every negative comment devaluing their cause, they receive five messages of positivity and encouragement.

Rita Vasconcelos says that “We have a very dated political class worldwide. Young scientists and students have been warned their whole lives about the impact of their actions on the planet and how that will have a rebound effect. There is a lack of renovation”. On other hand, Bárbara says that even amongst the youngsters, “Ecological consciousness is still very superficial. We recycle and think everything is okay, no one tells us anything. That’s also why we have awareness lectures at school.”

Supported by their parents, colleagues and some teachers, the students admit that they try to live in the most sustainable life possible, but feel confined: “While having a 100% sustainable lifestyle means so many choices, we can’t demand that to others.  For example, one of our demands concerns public transportation, we can’t ask people to use them when the transportation networks do not satisfy all their needs:”

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