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European Activists Putting It Together

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Environmental activist Greta Thunberg, of Sweden, addresses the Climate Action Summit in the United Nations General Assembly, at U.N. headquarters, Monday, Sept. 23, 2019. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)

This is good. We need more of it.

Even weeks later — this unfolded in May in Strasbourg, France — the two activists are still giddy about that confrontation. Ms. Lasota and Ms. Jedroszkowiak have emerged as leaders in a dynamic new wing of the antiwar movement, and the video of them lecturing Mr. Macron went viral, making them celebrities for a moment in France and in Poland, where they are from.

This is a different brand of activist — young, mostly female and mostly from Eastern Europe — who believes that the Ukraine war is a brutal manifestation of the world’s dependence on fossil fuels. They have joined two causes — antiwar activism and climate change — to take full advantage of this moment when the world’s attention is focused on Ukraine. And to make their case, they confront Europe’s leaders face-to-face.

They circulate around the continent, riding trains, staying in cheap hotels, powering themselves on cornflakes and almond milk, trying to corner Europe’s top politicians and business people. While perhaps not as famous as Greta Thunberg, they are cut from the same hardy cloth and work closely with her Fridays for Future movement.

Their message, which Ms. Thunberg and Ms. Lasota emphasized in a recent video, is that humankind’s addiction to fossil fuels is driving misery and bloodshed. They point not only to Russia but also to Saudi Arabia, Venezuela and other petrostates with long histories of conflict and repression.

“These things are connected,” Ms. Thunberg said. “More and more fossil fuel expansion means more power to autocrats. This enables them to start wars like the one in Ukraine.”

None of these activists were satisfied with the European Union’s recent moves to embargo Russian coal and most Russian oil by the end of the year — they want a total embargo on all Russian energy right now, which they say would starve Russia of billions of dollars and shut down its war machine in eight weeks.

Presently suffering through the gigantic heat dome over Japan, yes please. Yes, there will be some transition away from Russian energy and that will be tough. I don’t see any real solution other than cutting it off entirely and moving as quickly as possible toward a different kind of system that does not reward the worst people in the world for their bad actions. I do get that there can be dictators without oil reserves. It’s still the kind of activism we need, telling Macron he is terrible to his face, connecting the world’s worst problems, and demanding immediate change without compromise. The alternative is death and destruction, whether through funding Putin’s wars or through the hell of climate change.

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