On Friday, May 24th, students, adults, seniors and even young children from London joined forces to pull off a large climate change protest at City Hall. The protest started with speeches, including a speech by Peggy Sattler, the MPP for London West. Then with some energetic chants the group subsequently marched to around the block. The strike was part of a series of weekly strikes by students in London that have happened for seven weeks. The participants wear green felt pins to show that they care about climate change and fear for their future, but also have hope and want to use their voice to effect a change in policy. The pins represent a commitment to creating and demanding climate action.
Students everywhere are concerned about the terrifying impact climate change will have on their future. This protest was a part of the Fridays For Future movement and was one of 1263 strikes in 107 countries that happened for International Strike For Climate Day. The Fridays For Future movement was started by Greta Thunberg in Sweden in August of 2018 when she decided to miss school every Friday to protest the lack of action taken to fight the climate crisis. Her thought process was that there is no point in studying for a future that we might not have and that if we don't listen to highly educated scientists warning us about climate change, then we are devaluing education. Thunberg documented her journey on Instagram and it quickly became a global movement.
As students, we have repetitively learned about climate change in science classes where we learn about positive feedback loops, proxy records, greenhouse gases and the industrial revolution. However, we learn little about the effects climate change is going to have. Climate change will equate to massive loss of life. It will cause enormous natural disasters like we have already seen with Hurricane Harvey and the fires in Fort McMurray. It will flood metropolises like New York City and disrupt our global systems. It will displace numerous people. The identity of everyone will become refugee, displaced, or erased. Climate change will reduce biodiversity and extinct species at a rapidly accelerating rate. One of the most intriguing facets is climate justice. This involves the aspect that those least responsible for climate change will be most affected by it. This means it will horribly hurt impoverished countries, especially in areas around the equator. This will all be unstoppable in 2030, eleven years from now when the earth’s temperature has risen past an irreversible temperature. We only have eleven years to save billions from dying.
The objective of the march on May 24, 2019 was to raise awareness about the climate crisis. Students are extremely angered and disappointed at the provincial government, led by Premier Doug Ford, that recently decided not to declare a climate emergency in Ontario. Our city has already declared a climate emergency and we have met with city councillors to explain what we believe London can do to increase sustainability in our city. Local change needs to be effected everywhere imminently, as well as large scale systemic change. That is why we are demanding that climate change be a top priority in the next federal election and that the Canadian government implement a Green New Deal. A Green New Deal is an agreement to decarbonize the economy, shift economic inequality and create a just power structure between public and private sectors. We want to motivate the federal government to declare climate change a national emergency, as the United Kingdom and Scotland have already done. We are demanding that Canada fulfills their goals of the Paris Agreement, which are designed to keep the world below the two degree warming that will lead us into irreversible climate damage like we have never seen before.
We are often asked the difficult question of how we can change anything. However, this has become easy to answer. We must discontinue our reliance on destructive and unsustainable industries like oil and gas, when it is clear they have a lifespan. The large corporations that profit off these industries try to purport that switching to renewables is costly and impossible, however it is not only possible, but easy to achieve even on a global scale. The expense that it may take to create a just system is necessary and the cost of our chance for a future. If we change the system, we can stop changing the climate. Industry is the main culprit of climate change. For a century, they have devised strategies to sell, despite the environmental cost. We are high school students, therefore it is implausible that any of us own a corporation, but technically, all of us do, because industries depend on us, the populus. If you do simple things like reduce your meat consumption and stop buying single-use plastics, then together this compounded change by individuals can affect a systematic reduction in greenhouse gas emissions that deplete the atmosphere's ability to defend our climate. If we all choose to buy more sustainable products, if we boycott companies with bad practices and if we demand that our government recognize the urgency of this, we can make it. We can survive, but this is zero hour. We need the Canadian government to declare a national climate emergency.
The term national emergency may be regularly used for wars between borders, but Climate change endangers us all and so it should also use the title. Mass extinction that crosses all borders is an extreme war that affects everyone, but is not being taken seriously enough to be declared an emergency. As a province we need to think about the reasoning behind Ontario not declaring a climate emergency, when it is very clearly the next step towards saving ourselves. We need to demand action from the government and press officials to put our safety as an individual, a province, a country and a planet ahead of corporate agendas. We live in a democratic country, and so whether it is through your vote, your actions or your voice, you can push for a change that will truly impact our future as a species. Please be an active citizen, set an example and have your voice heard before it is to late. Look into local actions like strikes, because they are one of the first steps towards change. Each person who joins or makes change in lifestyle, creates a ripple that can impact our entire planet, and the only future we can hope for.