“There is no planet B.”
A simple message written on a handmade cardboard sign, carried by one of the hundreds of young strikers who walked out of school on Friday to take part in the Global Day of Action against climate change. But a message that so clearly defined the reason behind the student protest.
“Climate change is the biggest threat to the future of our lives,” said Yana Titarenko, a Mount Allison student and one of the organizers of the local event. “We know its impacts and we know what needs to be done. So now we call on the government to take action so that we and the younger generation can live long enough to practice the education that we are receiving in schools right now. "
The Global Day of Action is part of a worldwide movement inspired by 15-year-old Greta Thunberg who, since last August, has been protesting outside Sweden’s Parliament every Friday to urge political leaders to tackle the issues related to the climate crisis. This soon inspired students in other cities across Europe to join her on Fridays in what has become the #FridaysforFuture movement. Now reaching an international level, walkouts were expected to take place today in more than 120 countries around the globe.
Titarenko said this Sackville strike is hopefully “just the beginning of our movement to show the urgency of taking action on climate change.”
About 200 students from Salem Elementary, Marshview Middle, Tantramar Regional High School and Mount Allison University, were inspired to take part in the climate strike, which included a rally and a march to town hall, where many of the protesters voiced their concerns and spoke out about how governments have failed future generations.
"The time to act is not now, it was years ago,” said Hanna Longard, a Mount Allison student organizer and emcee for the events. “Acting now is not forward thinking, it is a much-delayed reaction to the climate crisis. Acting now is not an option, it is a necessity.
“As a last resort for our future, act now to declare a climate emergency, update education curricula to be honest and clear about climate change, transition to 100 per cent renewables, guarantee safe jobs for all, create no new fossil fuel projects, respect Indigenous land defenders and Indigenous Sovereignty, and support migrant rights," said Longard.
Mahalia Onichino, a Grade 11 student at Tantramar high school, agreed that more needs to be done as the threat to the planet becomes greater every day.
“This is our world too and our children’s world. As citizens of this planet, and the planet of the future, we know our responsibility is to take care of it, but small actions will not get us anywhere anymore,” she said.
Ava Thomas, one of the student organizers from Marshview Middle School, might only be 10 years old but she knows the importance of getting involved with this issue.
“I think us youth deserve a future without climate change and people need to take action,” she said.
She says while some students her age are very concerned about climate change, many are not aware of its impacts. But she believes if they did know more about it, “they definitely would be more concerned.”
And does she think Friday’s climate strike will make a difference?
“Hopefully it will. We’re all hoping that it will.”
Laura Reinsborough, a mother of two young schoolchildren who said she was in full support of the students walking out of class for this Global Day of Action, was impressed with the level of maturity, dedication and cooperation she has seen from Sackville youth in this student-led movement.
“This is a rising movement around the globe and children will be invigorated and empowered by participating,” she said.
Reinsborough said she feels it’s important to talk to our children about climate change because “they deserve to know.”
“And they deserve the opportunity to participate in this movement that may give us all a fighting chance."
“The student climate strike provides an opportunity not only to talk to them about it, but also an opportunity for them to take action,” said Reinsborough. “And that's the biggest lesson I'm learning from Greta Thunberg and the movement she has started: that we don't have hope just because . . .we gain hope from taking action.”
The students presented municipal and provincial officials who were on hand for the event with a letter that called on the policy makers of the schools, the community, the province and the country to take action.
Below are a few excerpts from that letter:
“Our planet is on the precipice of an unprecedented crisis. According to a recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the time left for us to find a way to limit global warming to 1.5° C, our best possible chance for preserving a livable future for all, is terrifyingly short. The report states that, if global emissions of carbon dioxide are not reduced by at least 45 per cent by 2030, reaching net zero by 2050, the climate catastrophe in which we now find ourselves will have passed the point of no-return.”
“ . . .our future is at stake, yet our governments have almost uniformly failed to act meaningfully in response to this impending disaster."
“We cannot state our desperation in strong enough terms: our species is facing extinction. Our chances at a survivable future are vanishing with each passing day."
“We choose to disrupt our educations today in recognition of the disruption of our lives that will inevitably occur if we remain complacent. We as young people are rising up now because it is us who will be forced to live or die in the world that we build today."
“We have wasted too much time already, waiting for action that never came. We still have the chance to preserve this world for the young people of today and of tomorrow, but we need to act with courage immediately to fundamentally change the ways in which we conduct our lives in this town, in this province, in this country, and on this earth.”
“Only a bold, innovative and trailblazing effort now can avert a climate catastrophe of unprecedented proportions from taking place in our lifetimes. We students are relying on our policy-makers and elected representatives to be courageous and work with us, not against us, to produce the kinds of changes we need to protect and preserve the Earth. It is the only home any of us have.”
Youth’s demands from Friday’s climate strike:
The Town of Sackville
–Call upon the town to recognize the seriousness of the issue – particularly as a town vulnerable to rising sea-levels – and declare a Climate Emergency.
– In light of the release of the IPCC report in 2018, call upon the town to review, revaluate and update their 2010 Sustainable Sackville plan, and direct resources to ensure that goals will be met.
Province of New Brunswick
–Call upon the NB government modify school curricula to include education on climate science and climate change that reflects the reality of the situation.
–Also call upon the provincial government to cease its resistance of carbon-pricing programs and to stand by its moratorium on fracking.
Mount Allison University
–Mount Allison students call on the university to take a stand on the climate crisis by divesting students’ endowment of the top 200 publicly-traded fossil fuel companies.
–They also ask that MTA work to further “indigenize” their classrooms by incorporating Indigenous knowledge into course material.
–“This government was elected on a promise of climate leadership, and we demand they make
good on that promise.”
–Work to implement bold and innovative new climate policy that recognizes and responds to the seriousness of the climate crisis actively.
–A recognition of the sovereign rights of Canada’s First Nations.
–A commitment to avoid investing in or permitting new fossil fuel projects.
–A plan to transition to a 100% renewable energy economy.
–A plan to drastically reduce carbon emissions
For video coverage of the rally and march, visit the Sackville Tribune-Post Facebook page.