Tackling the climate crisis is not just about personal responsibility. We need systemic solutions for real change.

Klíma ťa potrebuje/Climate Needs You is a nationwide movement to fight climate change. Earlier this year the campaign expanded to the east of Slovakia, where during recent months a stable group of activists has formed. In cooperation with members from Bratislava, Banská Bystrica and other cities they are spreading the main ideas of the movement. Among other things, they communicate the importance of strong climate laws, prepare methodologies for educating young people and pursue watchdog activities. Since March, the Košice part of the movement has been meeting regularly at Climate Cafés in Tabačka Kulturfabrik.

Climate Needs You all over Slovakia

In 2020, a group of six people came together after they realised that almost nothing was happening in Slovakia as part of the global climate strike. They decided to put pressure on politicians to start taking the issue of climate change seriously and to create concrete actions to tackle it. The initiative, which was named Climate Needs You, has prepared a petition to declare a climate emergency. The petition was created within two days and met with quite a lot of enthusiasm. The activists reached out to several influencers and NGOs and within a short period of time had collected almost 130,000 signatures. It is the most successful climate petition in Slovakia to date and one of the most successful petitions in the country’s history. Due to the number of signatures, the government had to discuss the declaration of a climate emergency. The National Council debated the petition for three days and the declaration of a climate emergency received the support of sixty MPs. “Considering the composition of our government, we can consider it a success, although it was not enough to pass the climate emergency,” said Adam Ogurčák, one of the members of Climate Needs You. Adam is from Košice but has lived in Bratislava for a long time, where he runs his own business. He is the link between the group in Košice and the base group of the movement residing in Bratislava. “Shortly afterwards, a second petition was created in which we tried to correct the mistakes of the first one. We realised that it is not enough to just declare a climate emergency, but we need a clear strategy and vision of how Slovakia will achieve carbon neutrality by 2050 at the latest. 130,000 signatures is a significant mandate to work with, and it would be a shame to throw it away. In November 2021, the first Climate Café was held in Bratislava. After two or three months, we figured out that we could also reach out to the regions, and in March we came to Košice.”

Personal responsibility and systematic solutions

The main goal of Climate Needs You is to create a mass movement that can put pressure on politicians to make the systematic changes it advocates. “We are aware that there are many experts in Slovakia who are addressing climate change. Today we are aware of concrete steps that are needed to reduce the impacts of climate change. There are many examples from abroad that we can use as an inspiration, but what is missing is the active public interest that Climate Needs You is trying to encourage through our work. In order to create a real mass movement, it is not enough to stick to our base in Bratislava. On the contrary, the development of regional groups is one of the most important things we want to do.” Adam continues: “When we visit the regions, we get a very positive response. You can feel that people want to solve the problem, but they don’t know how yet. We believe that creating Climate Cafés could lay the path for connecting these people who will then start to form groups that will become the foundation of the climate movement.” The need to advocate for systemic change and the creation of a climate plan is what brings Climate Needs You members together. One of the members of the Košice wing of the movement, Dávid Lorko, is a student of theoretical physics with an interest in philosophy. He says: “The fight against climate change is always presented through personal responsibility in the sense of starting from oneself, to be modest and responsible. Let’s take an illustrative example from today, when we are in a state of energy crisis. Well, at such a time, here comes an article in which an expert from an electronics store explains how to save energy by reducing the speed and temperature of your washing machine. People who see the energy and climate crisis as a problem, who are bothered by the impact it has on their lives, on their children’s lives, and who want to do something about it, see only that they should cut back. Often, these are people who are already turning over every euro in their hands and, for them, fighting climate change means turning it over not once, but twice. There is a complete absence of discussion here about the fact that it is not a problem of you spinning your laundry at 1000 rpm and not at 800 rpm, but a problem of oil companies not paying taxes and covering up emissions through billions of dollars of fraud. And that is exactly what the opinion polls reflect. People are aware of this, but the solutions they are routinely offered are always just about how they must have even less, when they already have too little.” Dávid’s quote refers to opinion polls, which show the Slovak public to be strongly in favour of changes in the fight against the climate crisis, recognising the need to take responsibility and create concrete actions at the level of the state and public institutions. However, they are significantly more cautious about changing their own consumption.

Climate Cafés in Košice

The core group of the Climate Needs You movement in Košice is represented by Lucia Csajková, Lucia Eštočinová, Nina Hadidomová, Dávid Lorko, Viktória Mesarčová and myself, the author of this article, Zuzana Kupcová. Each of us brings something from our practice, studies or personal interests to the functioning of the Košice Climate Café. Lucia Eštočinová teaches children from marginalised groups at a primary school. She is from Prešov, where she plans to start another Climate Café. She is currently working with other members of the climate movement on methodologies for education in secondary schools. Lucia says: “Our project of education in schools is still in its infancy. We are currently in a phase where we are researching the needs for climate change education and how we can meet them as an organisation. And, of course, we are preparing the first documents for the development of the methodology itself.” The new methodology should mainly complement existing programmes and not duplicate what already exists. Inspiration comes from the likes of Živica, the Daphne Institute, the Sosna Eco-Centre or the Skutočne zdravá škola project. In the context of Climate Needs You, it will focus on presenting systematic solutions and engaging people to support the emergence of a mass climate movement in Slovakia. Nina Hadidomová is working in project management at the Technical University of Košice. She is attuned to the issues around climate change, but for a long time she had no one to talk to about them within her environment. “I think that doing these activities on a larger scale than an individual, but on a smaller scale than a country or the world, makes sense. Doing something at the micro level, at the level of a neighbourhood, district or city is a viable way to really bring about meaningful change,” says Nina about her motivation to be a part of the Climate Cafés. She adds: “I was very pleased when Climate Needs You started organising Climate Cafés in Košice and I found someone to talk to, but also to do something concrete about it.” Dávid Lorko adds: “As I didn’t get the opportunity to choose where I was born, I tried to do something with my life. I don’t want to say that I’m interested in these topics, I think it should be natural, just like taking care of the ones I love. I care about the world around me, so I care about the climate too. It’s important for me to extend care and sensitivity to non-human actors and the biosphere as a whole. I want to live well and I want to leave behind a better world.” Lucia Csajková is a recent graduate of International and Diplomatic Studies at the University of Economics and Business in Prague. During her university years she worked on international policy analysis, including in the field of climate science. At Climate Needs You she is involved in the development of watchdog activities that are due to launch at the municipal policy level. In the future, we want to monitor the implementation of the climate change actions we set at the city level. The first step is to prepare a methodology with clear procedures and an overview of existing watchdog activities in Slovakia and abroad that we can use as inspiration. “I think it is important to emphasise that climate change affects us directly and that it is not ‘just’ global warming. A lot of people understand climate change only in abstract terms and yet it really affects the city and therefore all of us. But we can all do something about it in our neighbourhood,” says Lucia. Our city has adopted guidelines, strategies and documents for environmental protection and adaptation to the climate crisis. In Košice, and later also in other cities, we want to monitor on a regular basis whether MPs and mayors are acting on these documents in their activities. At the same time, we want to humanise these municipal documents and offer them to the people with a commentary on their implementation or non-implementation at the city level. Viktória Mesarčová is a bachelor student at the Faculty of Natural Sciences of the University of Pavol Jozef Šafárik in Košice. She studies geography and geoinformatics, so comes into frequent contact with issues around the environment, climate and the associations between nature, humans and spatial distribution. “This is also what played a key role in me getting into Climate Cafés”, says Viktória. “Since I am not from Košice, the evening meetings that we have become accustomed to at cafés would not have been possible for me otherwise.” Viktória continues: “We know we have a real problem here. We know there are steps we can take to reduce the impact on our lives. When it comes to decision-making, we want every voice that agrees to be heard and not just outnumbered by those that are against.”

A strong climate law

The main activity of Climate Needs You for the near future is the campaign for a strong climate law. The Climate Coalition, Climate Needs You, VIA IURIS and Friends of the Earth – CEPA are currently actively communicating with the Ministry of the Environment about the form of a climate law that will define clear goals, competences and obligations of the different state departments towards the carbon neutrality that Slovakia should achieve by 2050. In order for such a strong climate law to be approved, it is very important to disseminate it to the general public and thus create public pressure on politicians. The solution to the climate crisis can no longer be seen as an added value in society, a theoretical problem that is only addressed by some abstract intellectual elites and does not concern our everyday lives. As David says: “Our activities should not be seen as educating people that climate change is a problem. Most people already know about it, or will realise it quickly when the Ružín dam dries up again, or something similar happens to us. Rather, we need to show them that turning down the speed on the washing machine is not the only way, or that it is an ineffective way, to combat it. We should educate them on the possibilities of doing it in a way that doesn’t ruin their already pretty hard lives, and even makes their lives better. Because taking care of the planet is not incompatible with taking care of people, they are two sides of the same coin – ecology is social.”

Klimatická budúcnosť

You can meet members of the Climate Needs You movement from Košice at the Vianoce in Tabačka event on 10 December, where you can learn more about the strong climate law being discussed and contribute your own ideas about what our future should look like. In addition, a second petition to declare a climate emergency is running, which you can sign here.
In the coming year, the movement is preparing other activities such as discussions, community dinners, educational and watchdog activities. If you are also concerned about a sustainable future, if you share the main ideas of the Climate Needs You movement and if you want to get actively involved, get in touch with the group directly at kosice@klimatapotrebuje.sk or info@klimatapotrebuje.sk

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Invisible Mag is supported using public funding by Slovak Arts Council. The Slovak Arts Council is the main partner of the project.

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