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Italian students take to street for climate change strike

20 Apr 2019, 01:38 ( 4 Months ago)

DF-Xinhua Report by Alessandra Cardone
Students hold placards as they attend a climate march in Brussels, Belgium, on Feb. 28, 2019. File Photo Xinhua.

Inspired by Swedish teen activist Greta Thunberg, Italian pupils took to the streets of Rome for a climate change strike on Friday.

   In central Piazza del Popolo, where Italian activists of the "Friday for Future" movement set up the stage for the rally, students of all ages mingled with the usual thick flow of tourists.

   Younger children were accompanied by parents, while many from the high schools came with their teachers and friends. There were also university students, members of environmental groups, and many grown-ups simply sympathizing with the cause.

   Overall, organizers said at least 10,000 people answered the call of the youth movement trying to raise awareness on the climate change emergency. Italian police put down the estimate at some 3,500 people.

   The mood in the big square was festive, and expectations were high for the arrival of Thunberg, who sparked the global movement with her individual commitment.

   "It is amazing to see how a simple girl of our age, or even younger, has been able to play such a strong influence at global level," 17-year-old Maria from Rome, who gave only her first name, told Xinhua.

   "This has helped my friend and I understand that every single person matters in terms of protection of the planet, as well as every single action."

   Maria added she hoped initiatives such as the Fridays for Future, and the efforts being made by students around the world would not be in vain, but could influence ruling classes in a tangible way.

   On the stage, dozens of pupils from all parts of Italy followed one another, telling about their local experience with pollution and environmental problems, and asking for their worries to be taken seriously. 9-year-old Alice from Rome was the youngest among the speakers.

   Then, the arrival of Thunberg was greeted with warm applauses. The Swedish teen congratulated their Italian peers for mobilizing so many people on the climate issue, yet warned them very clearly.

   "We have to continue for a long time: this (struggle) will not take weeks, nor months... it will take years," Thunberg said.

   "We children are doing this to wake the adults up, and we want them to act."

   Some kids in the square appeared concerned, but also confident their efforts would not be meaningless. "We hope our presence here will have an impact in terms of encouraging people to think about their daily habits," Lucia Raffaele, a 16-year-old from the classics high school in Albano Laziale near Rome, told Xinhua.

   "We are trying to make people understand our home is the planet, and we have to keep it clean with the same attention we pay to our homes," she added.

   Her 15-year-old friend Martina, who declined to give her surname, spoke with even greater boldness.

   "I have long heard adults urging young people to be active in the society, to be committed... well, this event shows that we are," Martina stressed.

   "Seeing so many young people here asking for a different world must have a meaning, and especially because this is not happening in Rome or in Italy only, but globally," Martina added.

   In a statement earlier this month, the local group organizing the visit of Thunberg -- Friday for Future Rome -- said their goal was to make "politicians understand the time has come to listen to scientists... who reminds us there is no more time to lose."

   Their efforts seemed to have drawn a positive response from the Italian society so far, and Friday's event was funded through a campaign on the Internet that received over 21,000 euros (about 23,600 U.S. dollars) in nine days.

   Proudly, activists stressed the rally was strictly environmental-friendly, thanks to some 120 volunteers pedaling bicycles attached to dynamos to feed stage and sound system with clean energy.

   Political slogans, banners, or party symbols were not admitted to the square, since the Friday for Future movement remained intentionally non-political and very transversal.

   However, students did want politicians to hear their voices and their demands, and many looked aware climate change was a global issue that required a global answer.

   "This is the most important problem of our times, and it requires all of us people, and all of the countries, to be involved and ready to cooperate," Maria from Rome said.