Salman Khairalla is an Iraqi activist who’s been fighting to protect his country’s marshes, a key water resource, since 2007.
Global Climate Strike: the stories behind the faces and placards at the largest ever climate protest
A face behind every sign. A story behind every face. Meet the young (and not-so-young) people who marched for the planet during the third Global Climate Strike.
7.6 million people of every age, nationality, religion and social background joined forces and voices to march together for one purpose: saving our planet. These are the people who took to the streets, filling squares and bringing entire cities to a standstill during the Climate Action Week, which took place from 20 to 27 September, with the third global climate strike becoming the largest environmental demonstration in history. They were asking for one thing: action for climate justice. Because the environmental and climate emergency we are currently facing involves everyone, regardless of borders, walls and barriers.
We refuse to study the past if we don’t have a future. Gaia, 17, and Marta, 18
The faces and stories of the climate strikers
The movement has finally come to life, growing in every corner of the globe and becoming unstoppable and earth-shattering, like a river in flood breaking the banks that try to contain it.
I’m here to save the earth. Dafne, 6
But behind the crowds, the chants, the placards and the banners, we find the individuals. Each one with their own story, their own motivations driving them to make a placard and cross the threshold – not of school or work – but of action. In Milan, during the strike, we met children, students, teachers and adults, and we asked them to pose for us and tell us the story of what brought them here.
© Alba Russo/LifeGate,D9A0300.jpg|’I’m here to save the world’. Dafne, 6 © Alba Russo/LifeGate,D9A0243.jpg|’I’m a force of nature’. Emiliano, 6 © Alba Russo/LifeGate,D9A0218_1.jpg|’It’s a problem that involves everyone, and it’s happening now. We can’t wait any longer”. Valentina, 17 (Placard: ‘Let’s save the planet’) © Alba Russo/LifeGate,D9A0207_1.jpg|’If not now, then when? If not us, then who?’. Eleonora, 15 © Alba Russo/LifeGate,D9A0282.jpg|’I’m here for them, my children and everyone else’s’. Diana, 26, and Riccardo, 3 (Placard: ‘Mummy, can we have a different story? We don’t like this one, it doesn’t end well!’) © Alba Russo/LifeGate,D9A0322.jpg|’I’m a teacher. My kids are here independently and I am here for them. It’s my first strike: it’s never too late to start’. Micaela, 45 © Alba Russo/LifeGate,D9A0268.jpg|’The planet won’t save itself. It’s time for everyone to commit to changing the situation’. Corrado, 64 © Alba Russo/LifeGate,D9A0359.jpg|’If we young people don’t do anything, politicians definitely won’t. Change starts in the streets’. Alessandra, 21, and Elsa, 22 © Alba Russo/LifeGate,D9A0209_1.jpg|’I want to send a message because this is all really happening, it can’t be ignored’. Giada, 17 © Alba Russo/LifeGate,D9A0265.jpg|’We’re here because we want change, to have laws for the climate and for everyone to be more careful’. Greta and Matilde, 13 (Placard, left: ‘Now my cycle is more regular than the seasons’. Right: ‘You’ve broken our lungs (Italian pun). Our home is in flames’) © Alba Russo/LifeGate,D9A0196.jpg|’I’m striking today because I want to fight for our climate’. Margherita, 15 © Alba Russo/LifeGate,D9A0200.jpg|’I’m here because I want to fight pollution’. Marta, 14 © Alba Russo/LifeGate,D9A0226_1.jpg|’We’re striking so that governments acknowledge what’s happening’. Elisa, 18 © Alba Russo/LifeGate,D9A0248.jpg|’Our goal is to raise awareness, to achieve concrete goals’. Margherita, 18 © Alba Russo/LifeGate,D9A0238_1.jpg|’Keep the earth clean, it’s not Uranus’ © Alba Russo/LifeGate,D9A0291.jpg|Nicolò, 23, and Mabù © Alba Russo/LifeGate,D9A0257.jpg|’Our home is in flames’ © Alba Russo/LifeGate”]
A global movement
For some, the third Global Climate Strike was just the umpteenth Friday of protest to call the world’s leaders to action. But for others, it represented the first step towards a new awareness of their will to act in the current chaos over the climate emergency, and of wanting to make a difference.
I’m a teacher. My kids are here independently and I am here for them. It’s my first strike: it’s never too late to start. Micaela, 45
Each one of these people contributed to making this huge global mobilisation a reality, cementing the reality of the underlying motivations (which are often contested). Each one of them is a face behind the numbers that were unexpected for some, but, in truth, have been anticipated for a long time.
Every single person, without exceptions, is confirmation of the fact that the road has already been taken, that there’s no way back, because – in the words of the person who started the movement as an individual – “change is coming, whether you like it or not”. And every thought behind each slogan represents and awareness that it is when the placards are set down that the true revolution begins.
Photographic project curated by Camilla Soldati, photographs by Alba Russo
Tulasi Gowda is known as the goddess or encyclopaedia of the forest for her ability to extract seeds from mother trees and regenerate plant species.
Mohammed Reza Sahib, who fights for the right to water as a public good, has contributed to halting the privatisation of this resource in Indonesia.
He’s been fighting for solutions to India’s water crisis for a long time. Environmentalist and water defender Rajendra Singh tells us his story.
Moha Tawja is an activist fighting for the right to water in Morocco. The water defender tells us about the damage caused by the mining industry.
Tulasi Gowda, walking barefoot through the plantations, can discern the state of budding plants by just touching them lightly.
Greta Thunberg asks leaders to do more for our climate in a podcast written during lockdown: the pandemic has taught us how to face a global emergency, she says.
Black Lives Matter spokesperson Trahern Crews tells us about Minneapolis, the US city that has become a symbol of racism, police brutality and inequality.
Milan has announced one of Europe’s most ambitious mobility schemes, known as Strade Aperte (open roads). Its goal is to reduce cars in phase 2 of the lockdown by increasing bike lanes and pedestrian areas.