Maren Glüer:
Across the generations – how my mother and my daughter spurred me into climate action

A medical and organisational psychologist PhD based in Hamburg, Maren Glueer says that going to a climate strike with her teenage daughter in 2019 and seeing thousands of committed passionate school going children there, propelled her to join the struggle against climate change. Since then, she has helped to build up Parents for Future, Germany and is the national delegate for the local PFF group in Hamburg, as well as the national social media speaker and part of the coordination team for the national groups.

I grew up in a family home that was not ‘mainstream’. My mom was into recycling things and segregating garbage before these words even became popular. She raised me in a sustainable manner – many aspects of our life had a strong core of environmental values. I remember family and friends around us reacting strongly when she said that we are not obliged to eat so much meat! At a time when no one thought about the environmental impact of meat, I was raised as a vegetarian. She was way ahead of her peers and it was only natural that I grew up being aware of how human action or inaction affected the environment.

I went on to become a psychologist and worked in scientific research and marketing in the medical field. I still stuck to the values I was brought up with. However, sustainable and climate issues took a back seat with work and motherhood, even though I supported local groups and donated and fundraised for social purposes.

In 2019, when my daughter was 14, I accompanied her to a big climate strike in Berlin. There I felt a powerful spirit and I wanted to get involved fully again. It was not a decision of yes or no or to be thought over, I just HAD to get involved as it was so obvious that climate action was needed asap. I joined Parents for Future which offered a congenial atmosphere where everybody was invited and welcome. We are a grass-roots organisation where everybody’s opinion is equally heard. So you could say in a way that my mother showed me the way and my daughter led me back to the path that I’m on today!

Five years later, I still can’t imagine stepping out of this very important field of engagement. In Germany we have around 200 active Parent for Future groups based in both big cities and small towns. I’m with the parent group in Hamburg where we have 250 members of whom 40-50 are constantly active. We try to do at least one climate action every few weeks. As delegate for Hamburg, I also share our actions with other groups on the federal level and learn from them.

Additionally I serve as social media speaker for Germany and coordinate all the content on our official accounts. We prepare a post every alternate day – always backed with data and references which goes through different levels of quality checks before it is made public.

A large part of our work is climate awareness and we do a lot of actions that also get people engaged in public discussion. Sometimes, we join and support other initiatives – as we feel that collaboration has a greater impact. For example, in May 2023, we supported the ‘Kidical Mass’ – a bicycle tour all over Germany to raise awareness. Through this we raised demands for safer bicycling routes in towns for children and for a fossil-free transport system. Thousands of people and kids joined. Another very good action and cooperation with two other organisations was a ‘Green Breakfast, which took place in Hamburg. On a Saturday morning, the traffic was taken off the streets and we had around a 1000 people eating breakfast together – on the street! This was a great way to start discussions, have fun and show how much better the quality of life could be in a city without traffic.

We are also talking to a lot of politicians. In 2023, many of us, including me, took part in the ‘Day of Climate Democracy’. We invited 700 members of our parliament and 80 MPs participated in the event. It was an online event with moderated sessions where each MP was given an hour to talk about their plans for reducing greenhouse gases and climate change mitigation, and to take questions from regular citizens. The whole day was a big success and will probably be repeated. As Hanna Ahrendt says: ‘Politics is far too serious to be left to politicians’. On 12 December 2023, the 8th anniversary of the Paris Agreement, we presented our politicians with a Christmas tree laden with climate wishes from children and parents.

We engage with politicians, corporates and civil society. We see ourselves as being part of climate education and demand that politicians stick to their promises, that is to say to the Paris Agreement. We don’t see ourselves engaging in civil disobedience. This is why I have trouble describing myself as an ‘activist’. I am just trying to do the right thing and more importantly ask for the right things from those in power. We see that we have a huge problem today that will be even bigger for future generations – so let’s try to find a solution in a reasonable manner together. We all – politicians, corporations, civil society – need to think about reasonable solutions.

We also engage with the media, demanding more climate related news to bring awareness to everyone. They report about the war, about covid but climate is not often big news and we’d like to see that change. It is an issue that affects every aspect of our lives and the future of our children – so people need to get informed. We’re facing more extreme weather due to climate change in Germany. We have weeks of hot summer now, which had never been the case in my childhood. Germany is facing way more drought and way more floods nowadays. We’re using up our groundwater. We actually had water trucks delivering water in one region. But this is not getting enough attention in the mainstream media.

A couple of years ago we had a huge amount of rainfall which caused devastating floods in the Ahr valley. Many lives were lost and the damage was estimated at about 30 billion euro. It’s crystal clear that these weather anomalies are linked to climate change but at both political and media levels, these connections are not being made in an adequate way.

You would think that with so many parent groups and so much action among adults and young people, that there is enough awareness. But too many people in the population are still in denial and don’t understand the urgency of the situation. But as Greta Thunberg said: ‘Change is coming whether you like it or not’. And I would prefer to design that change and not let it all end in a disaster. And we still have the chance to do that.

We want to achieve a higher level of awareness that will lead to a change. We are aware that really important and ambitious change needs to be at the political level – for example, implementing renewables will only take place if we have the proper political actions in place. So to be truly sustainable and reduce greenhouse gases – as Germany promised in the Paris Agreement from 2015 – we need more encouraging action from the government as well as better laws.

Being an OKC fellow gave me the opportunity to make many connections around the world and I hope to be able to take these connections further and get to know people one on one. As parents, we have an emotional angle to protect our children which is powerful.

I want to feel that at least, I tried to get the government to listen to us about climate change. It’s sometimes not easy when I read the news from all over the world and sometimes it’s difficult to cope with all the bad news, but I carry on step by step and make peace with the fact that I can only do my best.

The future is still full of possibilities, so I have hope that politicians and society will soon change their mindset and stop destroying the basis of our life, and be more careful with the resources of our other mother – our planet and its atmosphere.

Until then, I’ll keep going, trying to do my part for a healthier, safer future for all children in the world. I can be just a small puzzle piece but together we might be that game changer – and solve our big and pressing issues to ensure a good life for all on this beautiful planet.