Anuna De Wever Van Der Heyden is the co-founder of Youth for Climate (YFC) in Belgium and one of the most high profile activists in the country, regularly appearing in strikes, in media reports and on panel debates.
Her work with YFC (set up alongside fellow young activists Adelaide Charlier and Kyra Gantois) led to her having a weekly column in the magazine HUMO. High profile coverage of Gantois’ subsequent departure from the YFC movement — after a breakdown in relations with Van Der Heyden — is a testament to the influence that the YFC movement has had within Belgium.
In a debate held by the OECD, Van Der Heyden said she was taught from a young age that she has to do something if she wants to make change — and that she was was very influenced by the Occupy Wall Street movement. She said this and similar demonstrations showed “there’s a revolution of a new generation that are rebelling against the system and against the fact that no one is taking care of our future.”
She also said that a lot of burden was thrown onto her, as an activist, in to make change within the country — to organise the strikes, do well in her school work, appear on panels, go onto the streets every week and answer endless questions from journalists about what young people are doing, how long everything will continue for and what the political response is. “But I really feel like politicians do not have to explain why they are failing on literally every subject when it comes to the climate crisis.
“You don’t have to look at us, the thousands of people on the street,” she implored. “You have to look at the politicians now. It’s their time to talk, do something and act, and I feel like there are not enough people asking them to do it.”
Van Der Heyden’s fame has brought terrifying consequences: The Brussels Times reports that she was harassed and “threatened with death” by festival goers at Pukkelpop after making a surprise appearance to call for more attention to climate-related issues. Young men followed the activist and destroyed her tent, forcing her to be accompanied by a security detail.
Nonetheless, she continues her struggle to protect the environment — tweeting regularly about biodiversity above and below land as she sails towards Chile.Tags: Brussels, Climate crisis, Climate Strike