“What do we want?”
“When do we want it?”
People from all walks of life — parents, grandparents, students, farmers, fishermen, scientists — gathered in Duncan’s City Square on on Wednesday, Sept. 8 for a rally to urge voters to think about the environment when marking their ballots in the 2021 federal election.
In addition to climate action, master of ceremonies Jane Kilthei urged people to think about the damage being caused by the Trans Mountain Pipeline, a just transition away from fossil fuels, and logging in old-growth forests.
One of the first to speak at the rally was Ellen Robson, who said she feels she needs to act on behalf of her children.
“I see climate action as part of my job as a parent, because governments haven’t done anything,” she said.
Robson made reference to the wildfires that ravaged B.C. this summer.
“I’ve seen climate change in action this summer, and it makes me fearful as a parent.”
David Slade spoke as chair of the Mill Bay Volunteer Fire Department, which has determined that the single largest threat to the community is wildfires resulting from climate change.
“We must elect leaders at all levels of government who will take this threat seriously.”
Two students and members of the Cowichan Valley Earth Guardians — Ellie Barnhart of Cowichan Secondary School and Katia Bannister of the University of Victoria — addressed the crowd. Bannister said she has witnessed the impact of climate change in her 18 years of life, and it has affected her career choices. Barnhart asked voters to consider those who are too young to vote.
“I need all of you — because I can’t, because I’m 17 — to vote like this is an emergency, because it is,” she said.
Fisherman Gary Johnson said he has seen 80 per cent of his co-workers lose their jobs because of changes to the environment, and invoked the damage he believes the Trans Mountain Pipeline will cause.
“All the science is clear,” he said. “It’s either salmon or a pipeline.”
Tom Rutherford, a former fisheries biologist and executive director of the Cowichan Watershed Board, compared the climate crisis to the COVID-19 pandemic. The world responded immediately when COVID became a threat, and similar steps can and should be taken with regard to the climate.
“In March of 2020, the world changed in two weeks,” he said. “We showed we can do it.”