Polish schoolgirl stirs debate with new climate protest

On Friday, June 21, 13-year-old Inga Zasowska sat down on the concrete steps of the Sejm, Poland’s parliament, urging the MPs inside to take notice of the climate emergency threatening her generation. Her protest was timely, as Poland – along with Hungary, the Czech Republic and Estonia – had blocked an EU agreement on climate neutrality at a summit in Brussels the day before. 

Inspired by the Strike for Climate Change protests sparked by Greta Thunberg in Sweden, Zasowska is yet another symbol of a growing global movement of young people urging politicians to take action.

The public response to Zasowska’s protest has so far exceeded her expectations, yet not all have been positive. There have been claims that she is a mere pawn in a political game, and is controlled by leftist politicians. Others say her braids, which are reminiscent of Thunberg’s, are a psychological trick to win people’s sympathy. Even Zasowska’s mother Patrycja has faced immense criticism, with claims that she brainwashed her daughter into taking action. In response, Zasowska has labelled the criticism as a product of ignorance. 

Zasowska hopes to return to the Sejm next week, accompanied by others showing their solidarity. On June 24, her idol Thunberg provided overwhelming encouragement, tweeting: “She is a true hero, standing up for everyone’s future. For this, she has received unimaginable amounts of hate. Please give her – and all others in her situation – your full support.”

Poland’s prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki has avoided calls to meet with Zasowska, despite claiming they are “on the same side.” Justifying his stance, Morawiecki says that such action would damage the economy, saying he wants to avoid a future where children like Zasowska have to go to London or Paris to find work cleaning dishes. 

The prime minister also argues that Poland is already doing a lot for climate change, reducing Co2 emissions more than most countries. However, according to a recent study in the Journal of Nature Climate Change, Poland is not amongst the 18 European countries that have seen a decline in emissions.