here are many issues in 2019 that divide us: racial inequality, equal pay for equal work, abortion, euthanasia, gun violence — the list goes on. Above all others, the one issue crying out for unity and action is climate change.
One person who has been vocal about this subject and punched through the noise in a big way is climate activist Greta Thunberg. She first gained international attention by skipping school to stage sit-ins outside the Swedish parliament, demanding action on the changing climate. The 16-year-old activist started calling her movement “Fridays for Future,” and in the span of little more than a year has inspired and galvanized a global student movement, urging governments to take action against climate change.
Thunberg has thrown her weight behind a Global Climate Strike, taking place from Sept. 20-27. Thunberg and other activists wrote in a letter announcing the global strike, “We, children and students, don’t feel like we have a choice: it’s been years of talking, countless negotiations, empty deals on climate change, fossil fuel companies being given free rides to drill beneath our soils and burn away our futures for their profit.”
“This is not a single-generation job. It’s humanity’s job… This is about crossing lines – it’s about rebelling wherever one can rebel,” Greta Thunberg wrote.
She continued, “We have learned that if we don’t start acting for our future, nobody else will make the first move. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.”
Yet this climate strike is not just for youth, it’s for everyone. “This is not a single-generation job. It’s humanity’s job,” Thunberg explained, inviting adults to join them and “step up and out of your comfort zone for our climate.”
In a tweet posted by Thunberg, the number of global events has surpassed 4,500. Over 1.1 million New York school kids will be allowed out on the first day of the strike, Sept. 20, in advance of the United Nations annual Climate Summit.
And there are signs that Thunberg’s message is resonating with at least some world leaders. United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres called on all world leaders to come to New York on Sept. 23 with “concrete, realistic plans to enhance their nationally determined contributions by 2020, in line with reducing green house gas emission by 45% over the next decade, and to net zero emissions by 2050,” in a post on the summit’s webpage.
The epicentre of the Canadian climate strike actions is in Montreal, where Thunberg is expected to speak on Friday, Sept. 27. (She is also going to receive Montreal’s key to the city.) Many schools and universities are closing that day so that students can attend the march, which is expected to draw over 300,000 demonstrators.
It’s not the first time climate actions have gained some momentum in Canada this year. In Québec on March 15, over 160,000 students from kindergarten all the way up to university took to the streets. On May 3, over 100 communities across the country saw individuals out marching in support of climate change initiatives, calling on the federal government to do more about this ongoing and worsening crisis.
The actions have been organized by Climate Strike Canada, which aims to “confront the scale of this crisis, and create a better world, by representing youth across Canada and cultivating a culture of compassion,” according to the organization’s website.
Locally, the strike is being organized by Ecology Ottawa, Climate Strike Ottawa, Fridays For Future, 350 Ottawa, and several others. Climate strike activities will be run on Sept. 27 at Confederation Park (Laurier Avenue and Elgin Street) from 11:30 a.m. until 2 p.m.
“Youth are rising in response to the government’s lack of action in addressing the climate crisis,” said Karolina Krym, a climate strike organizer. “We know we have only a few years to make drastic changes and buying a new pipeline is the exact opposite of what needs to be done.” Krym is also an activist with Our Time Ottawa, a youth organization pushing for a Green New Deal in Canada.
“This is about crossing lines – it’s about rebelling wherever one can rebel,” writes Thunberg and the strike organizers. “It’s not about saying ‘Yeah, what the kids do is great, if I was young I would have totally joined in.’ Everyone can and must actually help.”