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?
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.