“Activism can actually be liberating”
Taking a stand against fear: Annika Rittmann is 20 and is part of the Fridays for Future movement fighting climate change.
Annika, you organise the large-scale demonstrations against climate change. What motivates you to do that?
Mainly it's the feeling that we don’t have any other choice. Looking at the world, I feel two things more than anything else: I feel afraid and overwhelmed. I also feel ignored by precisely those people who could actually do something to change the situation. That drives me to take action myself.
Does that mean you think that major challenges actually push you forward rather than holding you back?
The question is what you do with the feeling of being overwhelmed. It’s a feeling that many people in my generation are familiar with. It’s actually quite nice for some people to pretend that all the chaos which is going on didn’t affect them. However, when you recognise that you’re kind of closing your eyes, it can be easier to take action yourself. Activism can actually be really liberating.
Climate activism has been around for a long time in Germany. What has changed and what has remained the same?
I mainly notice the differences. Obviously the climate crisis has been an issue here for decades, but it used to be quite easy to avoid taking responsibility. It’s very hard to do that today. People have realised that the climate crisis is real and is starting to affect them. As climate activists, we’re being taken more seriously than we used to be, and we've managed to bring the discussion to the forefront in society, right into people’s living rooms.
Alongside your involvement in climate activism, you are also a footballer and a referee. Can there be such a thing as climate-friendly professional sport?
For the short term at least, I cannot see climate-neutral large scale events happening. But that doesn’t mean it would make sense just to stop holding them. Events like that are an important part of our culture. And it’s still possible to make massive cuts to emissions, for example, and to stop working with certain countries and companies. That way, professional sport could become an important sign of change.
Climate activism is international, but are there still things which make Germany different from other regions around the world?
Unlike in other countries, as a young and committed person here you really have a huge range of opportunities. We have laws protecting our right to demonstrate and our freedom of expression, which is not the case in many other places around the world. Yet at the same time, as activists we are aware of our great historic responsibility. Ultimately, we are jointly responsible for the effect of the crisis, yet it will be others, not us, who will have to bear the greatest burden. This is an inequality which we must keep coming back to.
Annika Rittmann was born in 2002 and is now a climate activist and press spokesperson for Fridays for Future. She is also studying human-computer interaction at Universität Hamburg.
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