Young Scots environmentalists head for Swiss summit

Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg reacts after her speech during a meeting at the French National Assembly, in Paris, on July 23, 2019. (Photo by Lionel BONAVENTURE / AFP)LIONEL BONAVENTURE/AFP/Getty Images
Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg reacts after her speech during a meeting at the French National Assembly, in Paris, on July 23, 2019. (Photo by Lionel BONAVENTURE / AFP)LIONEL BONAVENTURE/AFP/Getty Images
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A group of young Scottish environmentalists are travelling to Switzerland by bus and train to help shape the future of the ground-breaking youth climate movement begun by Swedish schoolgirl Greta Thunberg.

Eight Scots aged between ten and 20 are going to Lausanne to take part in a five-day European summit organised by the school strike campaign group Fridays For Future.

They will join around 500 like-minded youngsters from 37 countries at the SMILE convention, where they will get together to discuss ideas and plan strategies for getting their message across.

Among them are primary school pupils Finlay Pringle, 11, and his 10-year-old sister Ella, from Ullapool.

The pair have been staging strikes every Friday since last December, missing classes to highlight the “climate emergency”.

They have already been striking for 32 weeks in a row, even during school holidays, and say they will continue doing so until appropriate action is taken in Scotland, and around the world.

Finlay, who travelled to the European Parliament in Strasbourg earlier this year, is a keen snorkeller with a passion for the ocean and a particular interest in sharks.

He said: “I think people are starting to take climate change seriously but they are not taking enough action.

“We need to realise that everything is connected and we all need to do our bit.

“It can be simple things like not eating meat for two days a week or planting some trees. It’s that simple. And governments need to do much more.”

He is very excited about the convention in Lausanne, which runs from 5 to 9 August.

“It’s going to be really great to meet up with all the people I met in Strasbourg and also meet new friends,” he said.

“I’m looking forward to learning more and exchanging ideas about running future campaigns together.”

Sister Ella says the local community in Ullapool, the UK’s first village to go plastic-free, has been very supportive of their school strikes.

She is also eager to take part in the conference. “I know it’s going to be fun. I can’t wait to meet up with lots of other kids who adore the environment as much as I do.”

Thunberg began skipping school last August at the age of 15 to protest outside the Swedish parliament, demanding immediate action to combat climate change.

Since then she has become an outspoken climate activist and inspired young people from around the globe to make their fears for the planet heard.

More than 1.4 million young people around the world took part in school climate strikes in March, inspired by her example. She is also taking part in the Lausanne meeting.

The rest of the Scots contingent are Sandy Boyd, 15, organiser of the campaign group Scottish Youth Climate Strike, and Esther Silverton, 15, both from Edinburgh; Nancy Baijonauth, 16, and Emil Carr, 17, both from Glasgow; Tom Morley, 20, from St Andrews; and Dylan Hamilton, 15, from Linlithgow.

Emil Carr believes the world is already facing the “dire consequences” of climate change.

“This is why we are meeting with representatives from all over Europe, to discuss how we can put further pressure on our governments.”