I participated in the GPS at the age of 19, right between graduating from high school and entering university, so in what can be called a “formative” age politically, and in hindsight, it has clearly been a key moment in my life. I have already been active in anti-austerity protests and some local environmental issues. The GPS, however, as a first major international meeting of this kind, has done a lot for me in terms of solidifying that commitment. Meeting people from all over the world has made me feel like a part of something huge and vital, inspiring me to work on the topic of climate more, but also showing me the connections between climate and broader issues of global social and ecological justice, which was already important to me on some intuitive level. I learned so much in that single week, both in terms of the issue itself, as well as some important practical lessons and concepts around organizing and strategy for social change. Some people I met at the GPS for the first time are my friends up until today.
It has been hard for me trying to organize around the climate back home, since there was no climate movement to speak of, so it took several years for me to “find my people”. I have been a volunteer and then intern with Friends of the Earth, coordinating actions around the Paris climate conference on their behalf. This has also brought me in contact with the Young Friends of the Earth Network – absolutely essential for me both in terms of political education and inspiring us to try to do more at home. In 2015, we organized the first major climate march in the Czech republic on the eve of the Paris conference. That year, we also founded the Limity jsme my (We are the limits) protest initiative, opposing plans to expand coal mining and demolish the town of Horní Jiřetín in Northern Bohemia. This has slowly brought us out of Friends of the Earth as an organization, since the initiative established itself as an independent climate-justice direct action platform.
Searching for strategy, we were more and more inspired by the German climate movement, where Ende Gelände was escalating the resistance to coal mining at that time. In 2016 we participated in the mass civil disobedience actions in Lusatia under the “Break free from Fossil Fuels” banner, bringing a whole bus of people from Czech republic. On the way back, in a celebratory mood, we decided to organize the first climate camp at home. This happened in 2017, beginning a four year streak of climate camps, accompanied with mass blockades of coal infrastructure. Apart from the media effect, the camps have become a crucial space of networking and strategizing for the incipient movement. I 2019, we have supported the high-school kids in Fridays for Future to bring the movement into the streets of major cities, winning important concessions from the government. In 2021, the government has agreed to a coal phase-out by 2021.
Finally managing to graduate in 2020, with friends from both the climate movement and the right to housing movement in Prague, we have founded Re-set: platform for socio-ecological transformation, as a new research, education and organizing platform for radical social change movements in the country. Here, I currently work on projects continuing the climate justice struggle on new fronts, as well as trying to integrate it with other struggles for freedom and justice: we’ve launched campaigns countering the fossil fuel industries funding as well as political influence, focusing on the problem of energy poverty, or organizing tenants to demand affordable and sustainable housing.
Trying to keep alive and pass on the experiences from ten years of struggle, we also have an education programme offering trainings in topics ranging from organizing to sustainable activism to social movements – some of them still containing some of the concepts I first learned at GPS. We’ve also facilitated the process of working out a “Green New Deal” programme for the country, and have helped bring the discussions on degrowth into the public discourse, trying to extend the vision of the movements in the country towards a broader horizon of social-ecological transformation.
It seems like a tall order trying to build the “movement of movements” we need and uniting it behind a common story of renewal and change in face of the mounting crises, but we intend to keep on trying. Perhaps it now needs to be a “little less climate and little more justice” movement even more than before – I think we need to integrate ourselves further with trade unions, community organizations and solidarity economy initiatives, into a broader movement of the working majority against the oligarchic elites, and for a re-democratization of both politics and the economy. But I am sure I will draw on what I have seen and learned at GPS ten years ago, whatever I do next.