Culture 4 min read

The Algerians' "Smile Revolution" is Going Green

In the thick of the political chaos, Algerians who flood the streets calling for democracy don’t let their environmental duties take a back seat.

Image courtesy of Shutterstuck

Image courtesy of Shutterstuck

Every Friday, since February 22, millions of Algerians rally as one against an old decaying political regime that won’t let go quickly.

Increasingly stronger, the protests storming the whole country are showing no signs of slowing down. Instead of trying to work out any type of compromise with the de-facto rulers, the public is looking for a radical solution.

Until then, and no matter how many Fridays it’s going to take, Algerians are picking up where the ex-regime-to-be has left off, including and especially climate action.

But amid all this unrest, or the Smile Revolution as it came to be called, Algerians are well aware of what’s at stake, environment-wise.

“Silmiya, Hadariya!”

The authoritarian rentier regime in Algeria has lived off of oil and gas exports for decades since the country gained its independence from colonial France in 1962.

Since then, “fossil fuels” have been the watchwords and crude oil prices rhythmed the economic and socio-political life in Algeria.

But regardless of oil price’s extreme highs and lows, the extravagant lifestyle of the senile junta and its immediate entourage remained intact. The successive governments served their bosses and themselves.

They couldn’t care less about the people, even less about the environment. They wanted the people to resign for good from active life, but the people weren’t having any of it!

“His excellency, the people of Algeria,” decided the “gang” that was dilapidating the country has one place to go — jail.

And, Algeria has but one direction to go, “silm” and hadara,” peace and civilization.

Both peace and civilization have been jeopardized by the pseudo-democratic leading dinosaurs of Algeria who refused to go extinct, more so during the last twenty years (1999-2019).

Read More: Why Algerian Fossil Fuel Investments are a Waste

Plogging, Eco Responsible Practice to Consider When Protesting!

For a significant historic carbon emitter as Algeria, taking into account the country’s oil and natural gas exports, the commitment to fight climate change should be proportional to damage.

At the time being, don’t wait for any bold climate action decisions from Algeria because this isn’t the priority of the unconstitutional government. Instead, random people are taking up the slack, working their way with the little they have got.

Back in April, the protests have forced negotiations between Algeria and Exxon Mobil to develop a shale gas project in the country to come to a standstill.

The state-owned Sonatrach had already bought Exxon Mobil’s Augusta refinery in Sicily for $1 billion and was looking to expand their dirty relationship.

But the people’s peaceful and green “revenge” was only starting.

Sport in the service of the environment, that’s the motto of “Green Bike”, a youth-funded non-profit organization that have invented the term “Algerian plogging” and went on to apply the concept during each of the Friday demonstrations. The association that has gained a lot of power during the “hirak” as Algerians call their movement.

Algerian “ploggers”. They pick up litter while jogging.

“We’ve been plogging for the two Fridays, and we’re definitely planning to continue,” said one of the plogging activists. “We take rubbish bags and gloves, and during the protests, we march, we sing, and we pick up garbage along the way.”

The environment and climate action are seldom brought up by the “elite” that emerged and the remaining political class discussing the transition and what is to come for the New Algeria, compared to the economy and other social concerns. But the young know what’s at stake.

The Algerian Green Bikers for example, who have many events in their calendar other than plogging, are fully aware that their action can’t be isolated from the bigger hirak raging on for 25 Fridays and counting.

“For us, there is an undeniable connection between the protests against the regime and this initiative. It is just as important for us to keep these protests peaceful as it is to keep them clean. And we are talking about regime change, but if we want to lay the groundwork for what comes next, we have to take the environment into consideration, because it’s not necessarily a priority for the ruling class.”

Thousands of young people across Algeria have joined the climate action, on their own or in small groups. Volunteers street sweepers from other associations, like Green Armbands and the Orange Vests, come forward every Friday to clean up the capital’s streets after the demonstrations.

Clearly, Algerian protesters understand that the radical political change they seek should come with a clean environmental slate!

Read More: The Growing Pains of the Algerian Energy Transition

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Zayan Guedim

Trilingual poet, investigative journalist, and novelist. Zed loves tackling the big existential questions and all-things quantum.

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