Youth rallies remind us climate crisis hasn’t gone away


WE CAN’T JUST WISH IT AWAY. The climate crisis is as real now as it was before we ever heard of COVID-19. Young people in 60 countries held 1000 rallies on March 19 to remind us.

Fridays For Future Canada says 46 of those rallies were in Canada.

School Strike for Climate Halifax organized a COVID-safe sign protest. They hung signs around city hall to again demand action on the climate crisis with the theme “No more empty promises.” A School Strike For Climate Halifax rally in September 2019 attracted 10,000 people.

No more empty promises

For over two years now, youth climate activists from around the world have been striking and taking to the streets to demand climate justice. Their call for #NoMoreEmptyPromises is uniting people beyond borders under the same goal of immediate climate action.

“What we need now are not empty promises, but annual binding carbon targets and immediate cuts in emissions in all sectors of our economy.” said Mitzi Jonelle Tan from the Philippines

Abigail Steeves, a coordinator for School Strike For Climate Halifax says: “We are living through multiple crises and although it is difficult, we have to make sure we don’t forget about climate justice in the midst of the pandemic.”

Using social media

In Milton, Ontario students posted this notice on Instagram: “Here’s what YOU can do to participate from home or in school. We will be holding a moment of silence and changing our profile pictures during class to mourn the failure of our authorities and the failure of their actions toward the climate crisis. Reach out to your friends, family and teachers and get them involved as well!”

About 300 people gathered at Montreal’s Jeanne-Mance Park on March 19 to mark the Global Day of Climate Action.

“There cannot be climate justice without social justice,” said Shi Tao Zhang, one of the march organizers.

Simon-Pierre Lauzon, a substitute teacher, believes social and climate issues are “the same problem.”

“It’s the problem of the government that is only active for the economy, for profits, for companies and owners,” Lauzon said. “Whereas workers, people who rent, people like us, students, we’re always getting the short end of the stick.”

Activists say the pandemic and its restrictions slowed down their agenda but added that once restrictions are lifted, they plan to be “more active than ever,” Zhang said.

Need to include Indigenous peoples

The Sustainabiliteens, a group of high school activists from across Metro Vancouver, planned to gather outside Environment Canada’s downtown Vancouver offices.

The Sustainabiliteens planned to draw attention to the work of Indigenous activists fighting the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion project, along with their call for climate justice.

“In the past, Sustainabiliteens hasn’t done the best job of standing in solidarity with Indigenous peoples,” said Tavie Johnson.

“Traditionally the environmental movement and the conservation movement have been very whitewashed, and we know that we can’t have climate justice without racial justice and Indigenous sovereignty and Indigenous rights. All of those are extremely interconnected.”

While the Sustainabiliteens drew over 100,000 students, workers, parents and elders to strike for the climate in September 2019, this time they asked people to stay home and watch their livestream on Instagram or Facebook accounts because of the pandemic.

Burning down our house

For all these activists the emergency is as plain as the need to act. In the words of of Greta Thunberg, the Swedish teenager whose uncompromising environmental activism sparked the worldwide movement they are all now proud to be a part of: “When your house is on fire, you don’t wait for 10, 20 years before you call the fire department; you act as soon and as much as you possibly can.”

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