Turkey’s Greta Selin:
“Climate Crisis Determines the Future of Humanity, Please Be Aware”

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Robert College senior student Selin Gören is Turkey’s high school level representative of Fridays for the Future (FFF) movement which has been widespread the world with Greta Thunberg… Selin Gören attended the FFF meeting in Switzerland last summer with the 8th grade student Atlas Sarrafoğlu, Selin is currently in preparation to collaborate with Turkey's largest youth organization TOG in order to expand FFF’s impact area which  they have spread across the country with 20 cities and to trigger the society over the urgency of climate crisis...

At the first meeting held at the TOG building with the invitation of İbrahim Betil, Selin Gören, İbrahim Betil, TOG Manager Murat Çitilgülü and TOG Department Manager M. Bahadır Tek talked about the possibilities of cooperation and possible projects between TOG and FFF. The meeting focused on the possibilities of cooperation varying from organizing a public awareness campaign on climate crisis via the young people of TOG to TOG’s contribution in reaching the support of local administrators. The ecological studies on TOG’s field agenda and the growing awareness among young people about the climate crisis have the potential to transform this cooperation into a permanent structure…

After the meeting, we talked with Selin and asked her about her approach to establishing new collaborations outside TOG. Selin said: “We need to talk, work and persuade companies, politicians and the ones we criticize in order to change. Otherwise, we can’t move on only by opposing.” and she showed that she has a constructive approach to collaborations.

Do you see yourself as the “Greta” of Turkey? 

I think Greta’s one. There are many factors that make her Greta, and Asperger’s syndrome is one of them. This allows her to see everything as black and white, to stand out from social norms and defend her thoughts without filtering them and to devote herself to her work. So we have very different conditions. I don’t mean to be a Greta anyway. I embraced the ideals she defends but not the character of her, just like all my friends who have been fighting for a clean future. If there’s one thing I want to be like Greta, it would be the awareness and influence she has created. We would love to bring in such an influence in Turkey.

Activism Is Not In The Classroom But The Streets

How would you rate yourself on the level of awareness and knowledge about climate crisis?

I can give full marks to myself for awareness, however of course I’m a lot short on knowledge. I want to make up for this in my university studies in the following years, because climate crisis is a very complex problem and I think that governments should invest in clean energy projects more. Technology should be utilized to cut carbon emissions, and in fact this way goes through both science and the political arrangements that unite behind science.

You’ll start college next year. Which field do you want to study? Do you have a goal of academic specialization in environmental issues?

In fact, in connection with the previous question, I want to study biology at university. I would like to be a climate scientist, but I would like to work not only with this but also with the knowledge I have gained from developing ecological policies. The Green New Deal, which is currently being discussed in America, is a good example of this. In my opinion, the people who form and implement such political plans should have scientific background and understand the dynamics of the climate crisis. Only this way can they understand the severity and urgency of the situation and design the laws accordingly.

What lind of reactions do you get? Do people call you “ a bunch of youngsters came together”?

We received great reactions and feedbacks from high schools. Much has changed since my first call in summer to involve high schools in Kargart in climate strikes. I cannot join Fridays For Future meetings lately due to my college applications, but it was so well organized that they are close to 70 in Turkey and there is no need for me. Of course, there are people who criticize and even hate Greta for reasons such as her Asperger’s syndrome, being Swedish, and coming from a socio-culturally good family among my friends both inside and outside the school. I prefer to be silent against them, as Greta does, because in the end, the criticism towards Greta who was chosen by TIME as the most influential person of the year and managed to spill millions of people into the streets as well as becoming the leader of the biggest movement of recent years do not overshadow one’s success. And it should not be forgotten that the ones who criticize change from outside by their knowledge based on books are not the ones that bring change; but those who are aggressive, who take risks, who are not afraid to lose, who actively oppose the current order. Not the people who criticize within the framework of the rules presented by the society because they feel obliged to be a part of the system. It’s easy to criticize, but it’s more difficult to change. So activism is on the streets, not in the classroom. The books we read are of course necessary but not enough anymore.

Call for Cooperation for Local Awareness Campaign

How do you intend to reach out to young friends living in Anatolian cities with limited educational opportunities and to raise awareness about the climate crisis?

In fact, we have a lot of young friends who reach us that are living in Anatolia and initiate FFF in their region. It would be nice to take a tour of Anatolia for a larger awareness campaign and tell the village schools about the climate crisis. But we do not have such a project yet, we are open to ideas.

Did you observe any differences between the environmental awareness of the young people of the Western countries and the awareness levels of the young people in our country and other non-Western countries?

I didn’t notice much difference in young people’s awareness. I have a lot of conscious friends here who support the movement tremendously; new people join us every day. But maybe it’s easier for the ones who live in Western countries to turn that awareness into action. And in return, they can observe even greater changes. One of the biggest problems in our activism is that we see even the smallest changes long after. Turkey, for example, in spite of all this action, has not declared climate emergency action. The European Parliament declared it. I think there is such a difference. It is much more likely to say that it doesn’t work anyway, and give up, but of course we won’t take the easy way.

How can young people who want to join FFF Turkey and other networks you’re in join them or how can they reach you?

It would be enough for them to write us on Fridays for Future Instagram and Twitter accounts. If there are no representatives from their schools, we add them to the group of representatives. Thus, it is easier to determine how many high schools are involved and communicating gets easier. They can write me from my Instagram account @selin.goren.

Everybody Should Be Climate Activists

Is there a message you want to convey to young people or adults?

It’s almost new year. We’re entering 2020. It’s the last 10 years to 2030. And our decisions in these 10 years will actually determine the fate of the world. Not only the world, the humanity. Because the world is much stronger than we are and we are actually preparing our own end while we destroy nature. Nature knows to repair itself. So even selfish people need to care about nature, because it’s actually an issue that determines the future of humanity. Please notice that! And join our next strike call. We managed to achieve up to 10,000 people in the streets all over Turkey on September 20. If enough people go out, decision-makers will have to notice us. When there is no more hiding place, they will have to fulfill our demands and to achieve net zero carbon emission and to open green works step by step with fair transition. But for that to happen, we need everyone to be climate activists. We need everyone to walk with us.

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