French protests: who is fighting the green fight?

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People attend a demonstration asking for urgent measures to combat climate change, in Paris. Reuters/Charles Platiau

The French protest spotlight has been fixed firmly on the Yellow Vests since November 2018, but there have also been a growing number of demonstrations demanding action on climate change. A group of researchers and students has been conducting a study to find out who France’s climate marchers are.

A group of French researchers and students, who call themselves Quantité critique, began a study in October to learn more about the profile of climate marchers.

The study covered three different protests in Paris, Lille and Nancy on 13 October 2018, February 2019 and during the worldwide ‘March of the Century’ (Marche du siècle) that took place on 15 March 2019.

Around 1.800 anonymous answers have been collected through online surveys.

Zakaria Bendali, a research assistant with Quantité critique, provided RFI with the first results:


Q: Who has taken part in climate marches across France since October 2018?

There are three main results we have found about the profile of these protestors. The first thing is that they are obviously very young.

About 80 percent of them are students… around 50 percent high school students, at the last protest we covered [15 March 2019].

Also, about two-thirds are women.

Thirdly, they are mainly from the upper middle class. We have about 50 percent of them who are executives or whose parents are executives.

It has remained consistent also across the three marches we’ve studied.

Q: Do the participants belong to any ecological activist movements?

There is not a clear activist profile but there is certainly a kind of political profile. We have found that most of our responders actually align with leftist politics.

In the beginning, we had about 70 percent of people who described themselves as left-wing, but in the most recent protest, it fell to 50 percent – which is still a huge number, and shows a diversification of the profiles.

In the beginning the movement appeared to be non-political. It appeared to be a citizen movement because obviously climate change is not a partisan issue, it concerns everyone. But still we have found that it’s mostly the left who mobilises.

We should also note that young people in France tend to lean more to the left.

Q: Is there a connection between climate marchers and Yellow Vest demonstrators?

We have found that more than 50 percent of responders in the climate protests declare some level of sympathy for the Yellow Vest movement.

The real common point between these two is that they are both calling for political action. They are both calling for the state, the government to do something.

There is this slogan about ‘The end of the world’ and ‘The end of the month’. Both of these issues are actually linked to the capitalist economic system.

There is a very high number of protesters in the climate movement who believe that we need to transition away from capitalism. I think it’s about 70 percent.
They believe this is the answer to the climate change problem.

That’s also a sentiment among the Yellow Vests, who are demanding justice and a better share of resources.

Source: RFI