Students not waiting for leaders to act on climate

The forest fires that engulfed Sweden during the hottest July on record are one of the most visible signs of climate change in Scandinavia, where students are beginning to take matters into their own hands. (Photo: Roger Von Walden, CC BY-SA 2.0)
Published Dec 07, 2018

A group of students at KTH Royal Institute of Technology is taking the climate crisis into its own hands. Sally Bolin, a third-year Mechanical Engineering student from France, explains how – and why – the group Climate Student KTH was formed.

The seed was planted when Bolin saw a Facebook post by the Climate Students at Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU) in Uppsala.

Sally Bolin

“They wanted the Climate Students to grow and start at more colleges,” Bolin says. “For a long time, I have missed having a climate organization at KTH. I thought that it’s time to start one.

The group, which goes by its Swedish name, Klimatstudenterna KTH , was up and running within a week at KTH, she says, and membership has steadily grown along with interest from stakeholders. Recently, group members attending the Armada job fair at KTH used the occasion to engage recruiters in discussions about climate change and to encourage their companies to take more responsibility in tightening their climate measures.

Also taking a cue from SLU’s student organizers, who organized a petition, Klimatstudenterna KTH is considering a petition of its own to demand that KTH reduce its emissions.  

“The students at SLU have had very positive reactions to their petition,” she says. “They were in contact with a group of researchers who then wrote a debate article in Dagens Nyheter that universities need to take greater responsibility for climate change. At KTH we have chosen to wait a little with a petition to first consider why KTH's climate change is going too slowly.

“We see that there is a will from the direction of the leadership, but the demands placed on the institutions are insufficient Klimatstudenterna KTH is trying to find solutions to how we can make the most difference and how we can influence. We also see that our role is raising awareness and commitment to climate issues with KTH students and with companies that have contact with KTH.

The group’s rapid progress follows a global trend in which students of all ages are taking a more forceful public stance on climate issues. Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg has taken her climate campaign in Sweden to the global stage, stealing the show at COP24 in Poland this week as the conference’s de facto voice of conscience and providing the media with incisive criticism of world leaders. While in France, students made global news with a declaration to refuse to work for climate-destructive companies.

"I was very inspired by the call in France,” Bolin says. “Hopefully, it will soon be similar to Sweden. It would be great if this student call could spread to even more countries and become a global movement. The school strike for the climate that Greta Thunberg started at the beginning of the semester is a very inspiring example of how a person can start a movement that is getting a lot bigger.

“Now it has gotten global spread and has reached Australia. It is a source of hope that young people are now forcefully showing that we do not intend to accept a climate disaster,” she says.

As far as the reaction at KTH, Bolin says students, researchers and other employees are in favor of the new student group. “It feels like many have waited for KTH students to activate more. And from KTH there is a lot of support and help. It's good to feel that I'm not alone at KTH in my climate anxiety and my desire to make a change.”

Håkan Soold/David Callahan

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Last changed: Dec 07, 2018