‘We cannot focus on school when our futures are at stake. This is why I strike’ | The Star

Students across Canada are calling on adults, labour unions and businesses to join them in the streets this Friday, as they partake in a global strike to spur action on climate change that has seen millions march around the world this past week.

The Global Climate Strike, running from Sept. 20 to 27, is globally co-ordinated, meaning local organizers from more than 150 countries are holding strikes throughout the week, with the majority happening on Fridays. The last time there was action of this kind was in May, when hundreds of thousands came out across Canada.

This week’s protests kicked off last Friday, ahead of Monday’s UN Climate Action Summit, with rallies in cities such as New York, Bogota and Taipei, among others. This Friday, local organizers across Canada are co-ordinating protests in cities from St. John’s to Toronto to Whitehorse.

“As young climate strikers have shown, there is huge power in sustained action week after week to match the scale of the climate emergency,” the movement’s website states.

The rallies are the latest action in the Fridays for Future movement started by Swedish 16-year-old Greta Thunberg in August 2018 when she sat in front of her country’s parliament every school day for three weeks to demand more aggressive policies on climate change. Since then, students around the world have been running smaller protests on Fridays, with more than 2,500 registered strikes around the world.

We spoke to Canadians across the country about why they’re participating this Friday or supporting the protest and why it’s so important to them.

Olivier Adkin-Kaya, 18, student, Edmonton

The severity of the climate crisis is causing me immense concern. I am worried about my own future, as well as the future of generations to come. My concern for our planet’s future is something that I have in common with the ever-growing group of people who do not deny the urgency of the climate crisis.

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We are, from the beginning, taught the importance of our education and academic abilities and encouraged to study hard, perhaps to finally begin our post-secondary education as we enter adulthood. We are guided through 12 or more years of schooling so we can decide what role in society is best for us. Assuming that the reader is of an older generation than my own, I ask: What were you most worried about when you attended school?

If anything, especially in the final years of our schooling, the education system evokes in us a concern for our career-defining decisions. Naturally, at this point in time, our primary concern is what career path we wish to follow. But when we learn that an irreversible, catastrophic change looms on the horizon and that we have a window of just 11 years to halve global greenhouse gas emissions or face life in an uninhabitable world, how could we possibly care about whether or not we want to be an engineer, or a musician, or doctor; these are insignificant decisions that are now sinking in the cesspool that is the climate crisis. In a province where all four major political parties have virtually the same position on the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion, simply voting is no longer a means to deal with this crisis. As our governments are failing to act meaningfully to rein in the climate crisis, the only thing left for us students to do is to strike and mobilize in other ways to make them take the necessary actions.

We cannot focus on school when our futures are at stake. This is why I strike.

Edward Xie, 34, emergency doctor in Toronto and a member of the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment (CAPE)

"Most of us who are looking after patients will be posting on social media to show support," says Edward Xie, an emergency doctor in Toronto.

Like many of us, I read the news and see the devastation from hurricanes and fires. Then I walk into my ER and see patients having asthma attacks, heat stroke and tick bites. It’s clear that all of these will get worse with climate change, but we still have time to act.

Since doctors and nurses provide an essential service, we don’t expect them to walk out of their offices and wards. Many of us will be standing by the youth, but most of us who are looking after patients will be posting on social media to show support.

Even though we’re feeling the impact already, without ambitious action climate change is going to hit our kids even harder. Working for the University Health Network next to the Hospital for Sick Children, I know that there’s nothing we wouldn’t do to protect our kids. If we think about all the ways that climate change can hurt them, it’s obvious that we need to turn things around. We want to see effective climate action for a healthier future.

Lena Andres, 17, student, Winnipeg

"I strike not only for my future, but also for the futures of all those around me," says Lena Andres from Winnipeg.

There is a misconception among our society that says the state is stronger than the people. The power of youth continues to be underestimated. That is why on Sept. 27, I will be striking for climate. I truly believe that the collective power of young people is stronger than the influence of the other side who is blatantly ignoring the science behind the climate crisis.

I strike not only for my future, but also for the futures of all those around me, for those who are defending their traditional lands, for those who have died unjust deaths relating to the climate crisis, and for those who continue to have to leave their homes due to increasingly severe and common natural disasters. I strike for folks who are working in the non-renewable energy sector, as a just transition for all people is key to the switch to a sustainable, renewable economy. I strike because we need immense systemic change. People have been told for far too long that they have to make a choice between having a good job and protecting the planet when, in fact, they can have both things.

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Sept. 27 will be a tipping point as a global culture that pushes leaders to, at the very least, acknowledge the fact that we are in a state of emergency, and that we cannot continue business as usual if we hope to continue as a society. The path that we are on now leads us to continued land degradation and human rights violations. Sept. 27 is an essential day where people of all ages worldwide will gather to say “stop, enough is enough.”

This climate striking movement may have started with one, but is now over one million strong. Sept. 20-27 will show world leaders that the climate crisis is the number one issue. If we can’t solve this crisis, we can’t solve anything else. You can’t have a sustainable health care system, a booming economy, quality education or good jobs if there is no planet to live on.

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Fletcher Dares, 15, student, Inuvik, N.W.T.

"I'm striking to have my voice heard on how climate change is destroying our Earth," says Fletcher Dares from Inuvik, N.W.T.

I live in Inuvik, N.W.T., which is a small northern community approximately 100 kilometres south of the Arctic Ocean and 200 kilometres north of the Arctic Circle. I have been participating and helping with the organization of climate strikes in our community since spring 2019. I have always been interested in climate change and its significance, particularly in Canada’s north.

The Arctic regions are warming at twice the rate as the rest of the world, and its effects will be detrimental. For example, it is estimated that by 2050, 50 per cent of infrastructure in the north will be at risk for collapsing. Due to permafrost and the inability for typical basement type foundations, buildings in the north are required to be constructed on pilings/heavy stakes or pads. With climate change the permafrost is melting, causing the instability of these structures. With the rapid warming of the Arctic, sea ice is melting, causing a rise in sea level and a reduction in land mass. This is having great effects on the Arctic’s animals, causing change in migratory paths.

I credit Greta Thunberg, also a young student who was able to voice her concerns and advocate for climate action, that I knew this was something I could do as well. I’m striking to have my voice heard on how climate change is destroying our Earth, how something must actively be done to protect us all from this devastating phenomenon. The Arctic regions are warming, a region where the climate change effects are significantly pronounced.

Matthew Lie-Paehlke, 38, organizer with Extinction Rebellion Toronto

"Young people shouldn't have to lead the charge for climate action, but they are," says Matthew Lie-Paehlke (right) of Toronto.

Young people shouldn’t have to lead the charge for climate action, but they are. The UN is reporting that yields of all staple crops will decline significantly for each degree of warming. Yet most adults are too caught up in getting through the week to face the disaster in the distance. Young people are at a phase in their lives where they actually think about the future.

Setting aside our short-term goals for one day is the least we can do for our children. What they really need is for us to be brave and put those goals aside until the battle is won. My wife and I started our own tiny climate organization, Climate Pledge Collective, and we spend countless unpaid hours doing that work. I am also an organizer with Extinction Rebellion Toronto. Nonviolent direct action is new to me, but I’m desperate, because voting and petitions have only led to rising emissions. The energy of a massive march gives me strength.

That’s what is most important about this march to me — it’s a chance to see how many people really do care and feel like as though we could actually win.

Julia Sampson, 17, student, Halifax

"We just want the government to take serious action on the climate crisis so we can have a future and our children can have futures," says Julia Sampson of Halifax.

Originally I started striking back in March. What got me striking was actually seeing all the videos all over the media of just thousands of students plowing through the streets in Europe and I knew it was for a climate strike but at that time I didn’t really know what state our planet was in. When I did some of my own research, I couldn’t just sit there and do nothing. I talked to one of my friends and we decided to start our strike group with some other people. And we’ve continued because we’re still not seeing the action that we want. We started in February but didn’t have our first strike until March.

This specific strike is really important because it’s another global strike, which is very impactful. And it’s also about a month before the election so it’s really important to get awareness out to the public and get them to vote for climate.

From the movement, generally, we just want the government to take serious action on the climate crisis so we can have a future and our children can have futures. From this specific strike we just want to raise awareness so that people will know to vote for climate for the election. We just want to keep building awareness.

Ashley Torres, 23, student at Concordia University, Montreal

"I think the youth have established that they're going to be part of the fight," says Ashley Torres from Montreal.

The reason I’m striking is because I recognize that we are in a climate crisis, however, I think recognizing is not enough anymore. I really think we need to push for action, and concrete change needs to be made. I think the youth have established that they’re going to be part of the fight.

It’s a responsibility. I’m privileged enough to have that option to strike and to really have a say in society that we need that change right now. At the same time, it helps with the ecoanxiety that a lot of us feel.

In March, we went out in the streets and we had a lot of numbers. In Montreal, we were 150,000 people. It was monumental. One of our organizers said next time we go on the streets, we won’t be alone. We won’t be only students. I think that’s why the Sept. 27 strike is so important because it’s not just students, it’s this huge coalition of workers, NGOs and unions. We’re going to be much more massive.

Sahar Fatima

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