CHILLINGLY RESOLUTE: How do you stage a climate change strike when it’s -33C? Bundle up and look beyond the moment


“No more lies! We want ice!”

On this occasion those shouting the angry protests got plenty of what they asked for as the latest of a series of climate change strikes and demonstrations in Longyearbyen took place at midday Friday in a minus 20 degrees Celsius cold snap, with wind gusts strong enough to make it feel like minus 33 degrees and extinguish the torches participants hoped would light up the polar night.

While the frigid and abbreviated gathering and procession through the center of town might not make for the best visual in terms of convincing skeptics about the reality of man-made climate change, participants said the strike was planned a few weeks ago and the fact the day turned out to be cold doesn’t change the larger reality.

“Weather is not climate,” said one woman while trying without success to get a torch lit before the march.

Participants, largely from Svalbard Folk High School and The University Centre in Svalbard, carried many of the same signs and shouted many of the same chants as a larger gathering in September that was part of a global event. The latest strike, part of a global “Fridays for Future” event, ended its abbreviated route at the Longyearbyen Youth Club, where speakers talked at greater length about the impacts the Arctic is experiencing and the student duo Stinky Boys performed songs.

The strike came a day after the European Union Parliament officially declared the existence of a “climate emergency” exists and a week after skeptics crowed about a forecast the UK may have it’s coldest winter in 100 years (possibly since Svalbard and other Arctic areas may have the warmest winter ever recorded, with previous warm winters pushing frigid air to mainland Europe).