Teen activist, actress join climate protests in Europe

Actress Emma Thompson joining the Extinction Rebellion protest in London last Friday. The protests have disrupted travel for several days. Swedish teen activist Greta Thunberg speaking at a demonstration to raise climate change awareness at the Piazz
Swedish teen activist Greta Thunberg speaking at a demonstration to raise climate change awareness at the Piazza del Popolo in Rome, Italy, last Friday, where more than 5,000 youngsters took part. She says that children like herself are protesting to wake adults up on the problem of climate change.PHOTO: DPA
Actress Emma Thompson joining the Extinction Rebellion protest in London last Friday. The protests have disrupted travel for several days. Swedish teen activist Greta Thunberg speaking at a demonstration to raise climate change awareness at the Piazz
Actress Emma Thompson joining the Extinction Rebellion protest in London last Friday. The protests have disrupted travel for several days. PHOTO: REUTERS

Swedish teen in Rome rebukes politicians as Emma Thompson reads poetry in London

ROME • Swedish teen activist Greta Thunberg rebuked the ruling classes last Friday at a demonstration in Italy, insisting that young people fighting for climate justice were not fodder for self-complacent selfies.

"We children are not sacrificing our education and our childhood for the adults and politicians to tell us what they consider is politically possible in the society they have created," the 16-year-old told crowds gathered in Rome.

"We have not taken to the streets for them to take selfies with us, and tell us that they really, really admire what we do.

"We children are doing this to wake the adults up," she told the crowd of 5,000 youngsters, some of whom were holding up placards warning "Climate Change = Human Extinction" and "Time is Running Out".

Meanwhile, film star Emma Thompson joined climate change activists in a central London shopping district last Friday to read poetry praising earth's bounties, part of five days of protests.

Police said yesterday that more than 700 activists blocking roads at some of London's most famous landmarks have been arrested over the past six days, up from the total figure of more than 680 given last Friday.

The protests, organised by climate group Extinction Rebellion, have for several days disrupted travel through parts of central London, including at Oxford Circus, Marble Arch and Waterloo Bridge.

In Rome, Greta said her message seems to have fallen on deaf ears.

"In the last six months, millions of schoolchildren, not least in Italy, have been school striking for the climate. But nothing has changed. There is no political change whatsoever in sight," Greta said.

Italy's populist government - the first in Western Europe - has a poor record on the environment, with the hard-right, pro-business League battling the Five Star Movement (M5S) over a series of large-scale infrastructure projects.

League head Matteo Salvini, Italy's Interior Minister, voted against the Paris Agreement on fighting climate change in 2016.

And the anti-establishment M5S has angered its base by breaking several electoral promises, including pledges to close the vast and heavily polluting Ilva steel plant, or stop construction of a gas pipeline from Albania.

Greta addressed the Italian Senate last Thursday after meeting Pope Francis at the Vatican on Wednesday.

"Politicians in Italy love to welcome celebrities, as they did (with Greta) yesterday, but when it comes down to the facts, we have yet to see any action," World Wide Fund for Nature representative Domenico Aiello said.

"The League and the M5S have done nothing," said Mr Aiello, who was carrying a large inflatable globe on his shoulders.

In London, Thompson told reporters amid a crowd of 300 activists: "Our planet is in serious trouble." She added: "We are here in this island of sanity and it makes me so happy to be able to join you all and to add my voice to the young people here who have inspired a whole new movement."

Thompson is one of Britain's most acclaimed actresses who has won two Academy Awards.

Organisers Extinction Rebellion have called for non-violent civil disobedience to force the British government to reduce net greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2025 and stop what they call a global climate crisis.

The organisers had blocked several locations in central London after staging a semi-nude protest in Parliament earlier this month.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on April 21, 2019, with the headline 'Teen activist, actress join climate protests in Europe'. Print Edition | Subscribe