Climate strikes and other forms of determined, non-violent disruption of the status quo are a necessary force for driving critical change in both policy and markets, Fridays for Future Toronto organizer Aliénor Rougeot writes in a recent op-ed for the Clean 50.
“Activists like me don’t claim to be the solution to climate change, but we are the fire alarm that allows for the rest of the climate justice ecosystem to intervene,” she says.
Over her two years helping to organize climate strikes in Toronto, Rougeot says she received reactions ranging from “constructive criticism to outright hate”. She was told that “bothering everyday people” and failing to “ask nicely” would only hurt the cause, and that her actions were “brainwashing” kids to skip school.
“Asking nicely would have been my preferred method, trust me,” she writes. “I pay thousands for my education and had no intent to skip any of it when I enrolled.” But, she has learned, “asking nicely” never pays dividends when the request does not align with the interests of those holding power.
Witness the ongoing realities of people of colour, women, or the LBGTQ+ community, Rougeot adds—all communities that have had to demand, protest, and riot (sometimes at mortal personal cost) for their voices to be heard and their rights to be recognized.
“It is only when these communities made the latter too expensive to continue that change came about,” she writes. “The status quo has the advantage of its own momentum, and protests can only be successful to change it if they halt the momentum enough for other options to be considered.”
Vowing that, despite the urgency of the crisis, she and her peers are committed to non-violent protest—even in the face of “occasionally violent state responses”—Rougeot states that she can’t, and won’t, promise not to hold her ground. Rather, she’ll be doing everything she can to raise awareness, change minds, and drive innovation, ideas, and alliances.
“We will remain non-violent, but we will not become non-disruptive,” she writes. “Too much is at stake.”