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E-Mail Exchange
E-Mail Chat - Youth Climate Activism

Geo and Asuka, two young climate activists, exchange their views in writing on different aspects of their engagement and give us an insight into their motivations and thoughts but also let us see their anger and frustration. What needs to happen so the young generation will be heard and their future taken seriously?

The exchange will accompany the screening of Now by Jim Rakete, which will be freely available to stream for a fortnight on Goethe on Demand.

 

8 November 2021   |   Asuka Kähler writes to Geo Teslaru

Asuka Kähler Photo (detail): Asuka Kähler
Dear Geo,

I absolutely agree that society needs to change as a whole.



 

When I think about change in general, I usually think about three categories, divided in numerous subcategories. Those three would be economy, politics and society.

All of them need to change massively, but where does the change come from, who is or can be the driving force? It won't be the economy for sure, especially the global players profit too much from capitalism - which is the root of our problems as you said, to have an serious interest in major changes. Politics - you said it, they have the power but they decide to not do anything. There might be politicians who deeply believe in change, and fight for it, but they are not enough. So society needs to be the driving factor - and as you mentioned, we need to change our believes. I think that might be the most important thing, that we develop a new philosophy, a new vision of what is a good life. In the end, that is what we are all striving for, but what is a good life?

The last couple of days I had to think about what you said in your first mail, that all of us activists share the same interest, and at first I disagreed. But now that I thought about it, we are all fighting for a better life, even though we have different visions, beliefs and objectives, and are differently affected by certain things, like you said. And that does not only apply to the climate justice movement, but every activist is fighting for something that they envision to be a better life for themselves and others. So our philosophy about what is a good/better life and our moral, how much we care about the live of others, is what makes us act - and therefore these are the most crucial things we need to developed further in society. We have already done that to a certain extend, but we are not able yet to generate the power we need, to force politics and economy to change as well, which then would lead to further changes in society and so on.... or we are already able to generate the power, but aren't using the proper tools, the proper actions yet.

I find that an very interesting question to be honest, are we still lacking moral and philosophy to make us act, or are we not aware of our power/don't know how to utilize it properly?

I am excited to read your thoughts!

Best wishes,
Asuka
7 November 2021   |   Geo Teslaru writes to Asuka Kähler

Geo Teslaru Photo (detail): Geo Teslaru
Dear Asuka,

I must say that I agree with you. Sometimes I feel as if the democratic system has fallen to the ground. I don’t want to sound too cynical in relation to my opinion on politicians, but I believe they simply do not care about climate change, climate injustice and all the catastrophes that are happening every day, all around the world. It is like they live in a bubble, excluded from the terrible vision of the world.

The elite class of society hold the power to make a change, yet they decide not to. Nevertheless, I do also believe that the change not only must be internal- in relation to policy making and legislations, but also external.

Society has a whole requires to change its habits, in terms of diet, transport and even beliefs. It is 2021 and there are still people out there that name global warming a “conspiracy”. There are people that do not believe climate change exists, when people are suffering, animals are dying and the earth is literally on fire, right in front of their eyes. These people are a danger as they will spread false and misleading information to the public and sadly, many listeners will indeed listen to them, as denial is much more of a secure feeling than fear.

When it comes to the roots of my activism, yes, I am doing this because of my love for nature, but as you mention, I am also doing it for the people. Climate injustice is such a huge problem, especially in the developing world. You mention the global capitalist system, and, in my opinion, that is the root of our problems. Capitalism is our enemy in disguise. We have been trained by past generations to purchase products we simply do not need, reckless of where that product could have come from- and then after a few weeks, the product goes either in the oceans or in some landfill in a developing country. That is how, whilst the Western economies and societies flourish, emitting dangerous gasses into the atmosphere, spilling chemicals into our oceans, and exploiting the lower working classes- the developing countries are left alone battling weather forecasts never seen before, shortage of food and poverty.

In relation to the movement, yes, I do believe that there are different visions, beliefs, and objectives, but I think every person within the movement might have a different motive. For example, one person might be more connected to the “nature” side of the movement. They might have a connection to nature and might not really take into consideration the human side in their activism. Another person might personally be affected by climate injustice and will indeed have a diverse vision, compared to one another activist. The movement, I believe can be quite broad, as climate change, climate injustice, climate discrimination, the pollution of our ocean etc. all affect people diversely. I believe that is why there are so many differences of opinions and even actions, in relation to the movement.

I am looking forward to your reply!

Best wishes,
Geo.
5 November 2021   |   Asuka Kähler writes to Geo Teslaru

Asuka Kähler Photo (detail): Asuka Kähler
Dear Geo,

I deeply relate to that feeling of betrayal. Sometimes I feel like that I've gone past a feeling of betrayal, that I always expect the worst, since my trust in our politicians, economy, and even out democratic system the way it is right now - not in democracy itself of course - has dropped to a bare minimum during the last years. I do not believe that our current economic and political system is able to solve the climate crisis in any kind of way, and that we need to shape a entire new kind of society. Yet I know that we - at least to a certain point - need to rely on our current structures, to implement changes we can build upon. That discrepancy between what I think the changes need to be, and what we can realistically achieve during the next few, crucial years but even in long term is extremly frustrating.

But when I ask myself "why am I doing this?", my answer would be different from yours, I am doing it for the people. Honestly, love for Mother Nature never has been a driving force behind my activism - it was a reason for me to learn about climate change when I was younger, but what made me an activist, were the faith of the future generations, the lives and deaths of countless people, right now and in the past. Not only those who died through climate change, but the underlying causes, through the global injustice and structural discrimination, which are a foundation to our current global capitalist system, which is a major factor when it comes to the climate crisis.

The vision of a global just society, of a better life is what pushes me forward, to keep on making all those small changes I can.

I agree that the documentary painted a really beautiful picture, but I honestly do not agree - at least not from what I have experienced. If I was to use the term of family, I'd have to add a "sometimes quite dysfuntional". It might not be recognisable from the outside, but the differences inside the movement, not only when it comes to actions but also to perspectives, topics, vision, how different things are prioritized - the discrepancys are huge. That itself wouldn't be a problem, but the lack of discourse and how conflicts, critique and different opinions are treated is one.

We already are a very powerful and beautiful movement, but I believe that there is so much more potential, so much room for improvement.

I am very interested to hear your opinion on this!

Best wishes,

Asuka 
3 November 2021   |   Geo Teslaru writes to Asuka Kähler

Geo Teslaru Photo (detail): Geo Teslaru
Dear Asuka,

Hi, everything is well, just trying to get back to normal from the global pandemic, while also trying to make an impact on the environment!

I agree with all the points made by you in relation to “NOW”. I believe it was a great documentary, as you said, in the eyes of the public it seemed great. There is passion; passion for our environment. The people in this movie convey the love and deep affection for me, and I am sure you too have for our Mother Nature. There is hope; a warm feeling that all of us activists need at this moment. The sense of hope I got from this movie felt like a warm hug. I found it interesting how some of the activists tried to explain to the public, excellent projects that would help us reduce plastic in the ocean, as an example.

The tone of this movie, however, I believe was too “soft”. I wish it portrayed more the deep anguish, anger, betrayal from politicians and mental exhaustion that being an environmentalist can bring. I have gone through all these diverse feelings. Sometimes I feel truly angry and betrayed by politicians. They make the promises we want to hear so badly; “yes, we will ban all single plastic by 2020” and then no policies are created.

I have heard one too many promises that were not kept and it is simply exhausting.

At times, I become so tired and enervated that I ask myself “why am I doing this?”, but then I step foot in nature, and I come to my senses: I am doing this for our planet.

This documentary, as you said, should have portrayed more anger. It should have given an insight on the emotions of us activists. I must also say however, that the documentary, in my opinion, painted a beautiful picture and that is how us activists are all a family. We all have the same interest and although we might show our actions in diverse manners, we always come together and show our love for Mother Nature. It is beautiful!

Looking forward to hearing from you.

Best wishes,
Geo. 
1 November 2021   |   Asuka Kähler writes to Geo Teslaru

Asuka Kähler Photo (detail): Asuka Kähler
Hello Geo,

how are you?

I’ve just watched “NOW” by Jim Rakete last night, and I have a lot of mixed feelings about it. Whilst watching it, it felt like a recap of a part of my life from the last 2 or 3 years – seeing a lot of people I know and have worked with, seeing protests I have partaken in and hearing their thoughts which, at least to a certain degree – reflect my own.

I think for the general public, this movie is incredibly awesome. I think it managed to convey hope, give several different trains of thought how our future could look, what needs to change, and also a small insight in how a lot of activist think and feel. But for me, it felt like seeing and hearing something what I, and countless others, have said to each other and especially to the press over and over again. I couldn’t find anything new, anything that made me question or overthink or that really inspired me. But it was a reminder for me that, in front of a camera, we all say rather similar things – but what was missing from the movie, is the differences we have within our own movement. I wish we were as unified as the movie made it seem and I hope we will get there one day.

Another thing that was missing for me, was the anger of our movement.

Yes, a lot of us are driven by hope, at least partially, but were was the anger, the desperation so many of us feel?

The trouble within ourselves, the lengths a lot of us are willing to go for a different society, the sacrifices some make? Gretas speeches are often amazing in conveying all of these different emotions, but I don’t think it does justice to the countless (youth) activists who are fighting day and night. And one last thing – I wished we could have seen a bit more global perspective, from activist around the world.

Nonetheless, it was a very interesting movie to watch, and I am happy that it exists.

Best wishes.
Asuka

 

In Exchange


Asuka Kähler Photo (detail): Asuka Kähler
Asuka Kähler

"I am an 18 years old activist from Germany, and have been active for 2,5 years in the Fridays for Future movement, mainly on a local and national level. I focus my work around more radical and intersectional perspectives, and have been involved in a lot of different projects. Since I graduated from school this summer, I currently am taking more time to focus on activism and my health as well as some other interests."



Geo Teslaru Photo (detail): Geo Teslaru
Geo Teslaru

"My name is Geo and I’m an environmentalist from Ireland. I’ve always had a strong connection and love towards nature and when I was smaller, I wasn’t aware of the deep dangers that our Earth was in. Since learning about climate change and pollution, I’ve made it by mission do to anything possible, to make a strong impact and try and save our beautiful Planet."
 

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