A grey day in Amsterdam did not put off thousands of protesters from attending the capital’s biggest ever climate march on Saturday. Some 40,000 people marched from Dam Square to Westerpark, demanding an ambitious and fair Dutch climate policy.
While the world turns to the climate summit in Glasgow, protesters gathered to demand more from politicians. ‘There has been a lack of any action from the Dutch government,’ Christian (59) from Germany told DutchNews.nl.
The demonstration was organised by the Climate Crisis Coalition, a collaboration of different environmental groups including Oxfam, Fridays for Future, Greenpeace, and Extinction Rebellion.
‘System change, not climate change,’ people chanted while marching. There was an upbeat atmosphere among the crowd, with music, some people in animal costumes, and a float carrying a puppet of Mark Rutte spinning a globe. Overhead, a light plane circled, trailing a banner stating ‘the Netherlands wants nuclear power’.
Government or individual responsibility?
Many demonstrators spoke about changes they had been making in their own lives to be more green. ‘Six months ago, I decided not to fly anymore,’ said Rosanne (35). ‘This was a bit difficult as I fly a lot for my work. I’m planning to tell my employer I will no longer do that.’
Some demonstrators carried cardboard placards urging people to turn vegetarian and vegan. A group of doctors from Erasmus hospital carried a banner stating that ‘climate change is a health issue’.
‘I feel the responsibility to be greener is on governments and companies more than individuals,’ Samira (24) from Canada told Dutchnews.nl. The event speakers echoed this message, and one of the speeches was dedicated to the climate case against Shell.
While politicians have made promises of action, people are disappointed in the results. With the Netherlands not pledging to phase out fossil fuel funding at COP26, demonstrators said they see even more need for events like this.
‘We’re all afraid for our future,’ said Joshua Paans (16), one of the organisers of the march. ‘The scary thing is, it’s not just about our future anymore, it’s about our present. We’re seeing it all around the world; climate change is here, and if we don’t act now, it will only get worse.’
Joshua is part of the youth movement Fridays for Future, a campaign started by Greta Thunberg where school students strike weekly to call for action on the climate. ‘Young people know that we need to raise our voices,’ Joshua added. ‘That’s the way to get the attention of the people in power.’
When asked about the impact of today’s demonstration, he said: ‘I hope that a lot of changes will be made; I can’t say I am optimistic about that. Every time we do something like this, we hope it’s the last.’
His sentiments were shared by the other young people attending the demonstration. Julie (16) also noted the need to speak out about climate change, saying that we need to ‘save our future.’
Paula (20) from Spain had a more optimistic outlook. ‘It gives you hope to see everyone together like this,’ she said. ‘You can see people are willing to change.’
Even though many young people came out to protest, there were demonstrators of all ages, from school children to pensioners. Many older protesters marched, holding signs with messages saying: ‘I’m here for my grandchildren.’
Philip (57) from France told DutchNews.nl that ‘We need to change for the new generation.’ He admits that it’s not always easy to be green. ‘We have bad examples. We are egotistical, but it is possible to change things.’
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