“What do want?! Climate justice! When do we want it?! Now!
This was chanted several times by the more than 100 people, both young and old, who turned out for the third local climate strike in Duncan City Square on Friday, Sept. 24.
Ellie Barnhart, a co-leader of the Cowichan Valley Earth Guardians who helped organize the event, said much of the world has been preoccupied with the COVID-19 pandemic and other issues over the past two years, and the focus on climate change has been slipping.
“Our goal is to bring the issue of climate change back to the forefront,” said Barnhart, who is a Grade 12 student at Cowichan Secondary School.
“Climate justice isn’t the hot-button topic is used to be, but we’re working hard to get it back on everyone’s radar. We intend to keep plugging away at it and, here in the Valley, we will keep dealing with local governments, organizations and associations to keep a focus on this issue. If we, and other groups like us around the world, do our part we all will be better off in the end.”
The climate rally was just one of many that was held around the globe on Sept. 24 as part of the ongoing “Fridays for the Future” campaign by the youth-led global climate movement, started by student climate striker Greta Thunberg.
The strikes are focused on climate justice and addressing ecological and social crises at the root of the climate emergency.
The crowd at Duncan’s climate rally was noticeably much smaller than previous ones, which saw up to 500 participants, but Barnhart said that’s because of the ongoing pandemic and the fact that past climate strikes were months in the making, while this one was organized in just a few weeks.
David Slade, who describes himself as a sustainability and climate change activist, as well as a “petrified grandfather”, said today’s youth are inheriting the mess made by older generations.
“I’m an old white guy and it’s guys like me with power and money who are pouring money into advertising that says climate change isn’t happening,” Slade said.
“It’s guys like me who are the owners of the banks who have $700 billion invested into the fossil-fuel industry and who own forest companies that are making old-growth forests extinct. These people have the position of power and must be shown that they have the power to be the instruments of change.”
The rally in City Square featured several speakers and musicians, and offered opportunities for participants to connect with groups working on climate action locally.
Those attending the rally were asked to wear masks and social distance.
Lily Wilson, the other co-leader of the local Earth Guardians, said dealing with climate change is important because its about her, and everyone else’s, future.
She said immediate action is needed.
“We need to cut back on fossil fuels and transition away from single-use plastic bags, and maybe stop using plastic altogether, and work towards helping the planet,” Wilson, who is a Grade 12 students at Francis Kelsey Secondary School, said.