They are on the streets for the climate (and it seems to be working)

Yesterday there was another action by the activist movement that opposes climate change. At the Ministry of Finance, Schilder (41) and fellow activists demonstrated side by side against subsidies to the fossil industry. “We demand that the government stop it immediately,” she says. The demonstration did not last long. “The police are about to make an arrest”, she can just text when we speak to her.

Later in the afternoon there is another response: “Held by the police for a few hours, we are now trickling out again.”

‘It looks weird’

Schilder calls the photos in which she is held ‘hugely out of character’. She writes and gives trainings for her work. Quite different from this. “It looks weird, I don’t want to overload the police and I prefer to be a good citizen.” But the worries are too great.

Below is a photo of Schilder during an action:

Schilder read several studies about the climate and was shocked. “It looks like we’re doing well, and in the meantime a disaster is underway.” The real moment that she decided to take action came when she went swimming with her children once in February. Not in a pool, but outside. It was warm enough for it. “It was almost surreal. It bothered me. Something had to be done.”

My wife said, ‘What’s that all about?’

At home they sometimes think it’s pretty crazy, such a mother who goes out to lie on the street and also lets herself be stopped. And then another bizarre photo comes along. “They sometimes have to laugh really hard about it, yes. But they also understand.”

Guus Dix (40) had to explain more at home when he decided to participate in the ‘high risk actions’ of Extinction Rebellion. Because that’s what it’s called when you participate in the demonstrations where you can be arrested. He told it at home, and also prepared them for the consequences. “My wife exploded. ‘What’s the point, why don’t you know if you’re coming home tonight,’ she said.”

Data center Zeewolde

It had to sink in for a while, but after a few more conversations, Dix – assistant professor in Enschede in everyday life – went on the road anyway. If only he wasn’t going to talk about it all the time at home. His last action: trying to prevent the data center in Zeewolde. Failed for now. “But we have a long breath.”

Dix also read studies about the climate, which ignited the activist fire in him. “It actually made me very gloomy. I hadn’t realized for a long time what the future would look like if we continued like this.” He decided to attend an action training course from Extinction (“You learn what happens during the actions and what role you can play.”) and met all like-minded people.

IPCC report: ‘World has already irreversibly changed’

The IPCC’s comprehensive report last August concluded that ‘action must be taken immediately on a global scale to reduce global warming’.

Climate change is already being felt, according to the report, with more heat waves, more heavy rain, more cyclones and more weather leading to wildfires since 1950. In addition, the sea level has risen by 20 centimeters in more than a hundred years. In the video below you can see what the report of the IPCC says:

Dix has been arrested four times so far. “Sometimes you are picked up by a bus and shown. To all questions that are asked you say ‘no comment’ and then you can go home.” Every now and then a fine is added, but Dix and the others always object.

Often with success. “We find the violation of the law justified for the emergency situation we are in. And then it is regularly decided to waive the fine.”

‘Daughter came to wave at the gate’

Dix says he’s ‘loved to the movement’, it has become a part of his life. It also feels that way for Schilder. She had already been in a cell near her own house. “We were in a police bus waiting to go in when my daughter was waving at the gate. It was like a strange movie.”

It hurts, says Schilder. She doesn’t want to lie there, she doesn’t want to be picked up. “But attention comes when you’re arrested. It’s a strange play.” But she is convinced it must. In fact: “It’s absurd that it has to be,” she says. “We are not prepared for the crisis to come, not at all.”

ABP

Schilder also took part in campaigns at the head office of the ABP pension fund. The goal: according to Extinction Rebellion, the fund had to stop investing in fossil fuels. And that happened. In October, ABP announced ‘withdrawal from its investments’.

It felt like a win. ABP said at the time that there was a lot of support for the decision. “Many participants and employers have long wanted us to stop investing in fossil fuels.”

‘Actions don’t bother us’

Whether the actions of Extinction Rebellion influenced this process? “We take all signals seriously and will enter into discussions, including with this party,” said spokesperson Asha Khoenkhoen of ABP. The October press release states that the decision was taken ‘after recently published climate reports’.

Khoenkhoen did not experience the actions at the building as annoying, she says. “It’s not about annoying or not annoying either. It’s about a group that wants to get their message across about an important topic and that makes sense. It’s something that belongs to this time.”

The ABP case feels good, says Dix. The focus was soon shifted to PFZW, the pension fund for healthcare. There, too, the campaigners’ aim is to sell the total amount of investments in fossil fuels.

‘We cannot innovate out of the crisis’

But where ABP sells everything, PFZW follows, as they say themselves, ‘a different path’. PFZW: “We want to maintain our influence as a shareholder to actively encourage energy companies to shape their contribution to the energy transition.” They say they will sell some of the shares.

Extinction Rebellion is not impressed. “The CO2 emissions just really have to go to zero,” says Schilder. And Dix can’t say he’s optimistic about the future either. “There will be a climate fund, but a large part of it will go to hydrogen. We as the Netherlands have to become very good at that. I have nothing against that in itself, but we really cannot innovate ourselves out of the climate crisis. I will not go there. more into it.”

Flesh and flies

Dix says there should actually be a plan to shrink KLM. “But no politician gets burned by that. And we can’t talk about eating meat either. Of course we should be able to keep barbecuing.”

It is clear to Dix and Schilder: they will often be on the streets in the future for the sake of the climate. They feel it is the only way to actually do something. No matter how uncomfortable it makes them.

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