A crowd of around 100 people, mostly high-school students, gathered today at Nanaimo City Hall, to protest government inaction on climate change. The student strike for climate was part of a larger movement of over one million students striking at some 1,6oo locations, in over 100 countries today.
Protesters held signs with slogans such as “The climate is changing, why aren’t we?” and “There is no economy on a dead planet.”
In speeches, student speakers gave a nod to the “grey haired” among the protesters, but underscored that the struggle for action on climate change has become generational, with youth now carrying the burden of past ambivalence and delay.
“We are the ones defining this moment,” said one speaker, “and we can’t wait.”
Several speakers pointed out that Canadian politicians from the three major parties have been complicit in supporting fossil fuel infrastructure, such as pipelines and LNG facilities, that are incompatible with climate change science.
Another theme of the protest was that time is running out.
“We need to realize this is a serious issue that we need to make change on now,” said student striker Megan Grimmer. “If we don’t start to make change right way, there’s no going back.”
Grimmer said her school took a soft-stance on truancy for the strike. “Some of the [teachers] support it. They can’t say that they’re supporting us missing school, but they support the message.”
Student strikes for climate change started last August, when Greta Thunberg, a pig-tailed ninth-grader from Sweden, refused to go to school. Armed with a sign reading “Skolstrejk för Klimatet” (school strike for the climate) she instead held a solitary vigil outside the Swedish Parliament in Stockholm.
She continued her strike every Friday, demanding the Swedish government reduce carbon emissions to meet Paris Accord targets. Her reasoning for cutting class was simple: if governments ignore climate change science, what future is there to study for?
A half-year after her first strike, her quiet act of rebellion has sparked a worldwide phenomenon, and Thunberg is now nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.
Today’s strikes inspired Antonio Guterres, Secretary General of the United Nations, to say he will call a special UN summit on the climate emergency for September.
“My generation has failed to respond properly to the dramatic challenge of climate change,” Guterres wrote in an opinion piece for The Guardian. “This is deeply felt by young people. No wonder they are angry.”