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Hundreds of students march through Barcelona to highlight climate emergency

The weather wasn't on their side but their commitment to the climate was clear


24 May 2019 07:51 PM


Daniel Wittenberg | Barcelona

Several hundred young people from Barcelona abandoned their classrooms and lecture halls on Friday and braved the unseasonal rain to march for the environment as part of the international Fridays for Future student protests.

Two days before European and municipal elections take place in Catalonia, local student unions and youth groups joined an estimated one and a half million people in at least 119 countries in campaigning for greener policies.

The marchers called on the Catalan government and Barcelona's City Hall, once reconstituted on Sunday with a progressive candidate expected to secure the mayoralty, to work together to make the capital a more sustainable city.

Aitor Urruticoetxea, one of the local organizers, said he and his peers were "not policymakers" but rather were "listening to the scientific community, who have been warning of the disastrous impact of climate change for 50 years."

They did have some proposals specific to Catalonia, however, including imposing a carbon tax on polluting companies, the closure of nuclear power plants, and delaying the expansion of Barcelona's main port and airport.

Truly global event

As in 13 other towns around the territory, young people sang Catalan chants translating as "there is no planet B" and "not one degree hotter, not one species fewer" and waved posters written in Catalan, Spanish and English.

The multilingual, international demonstration was inspired by 16-year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, who started the school strikes movement in 2018 and has been praised by the United Nations for her powerful speeches.

"It's been so fulfilling," said Gracie, a backpacker originally from Canada who decided to join in the protest. "I feel inspired by all these people who have come out to show the world what they've got and to stand up for tomorrow."

Fighting for the future

Julia, a global studies student as Barcelona's Pompeu Fabra University, summed up the urgent tone, speaking of a "climate emergency" rather than merely climate change and describing the next generation as potentially the last.

"It's our future. We need to fight for it," she told the Catalan News Agency (ACN). "If not, people and entire ecosystems are going to die."