Climate change is a hot topic on the political agenda, with party candidates pushing environment policies to the forefront of their platforms. As election day approaches, London students are wasting no time in demanding a greener Canada — with a good, old-fashioned strike.
On Sept. 20, Dufferin Ave. transformed into a sea of student activists dissatisfied with Canada’s response to the climate crisis. Roughly 400 protestors gathered on London City Hall's steps to strike in solidarity with millions worldwide for 2019’s Global Climate Strike.
Protestors blocked three streets — Richmond St., Dufferin Ave., and Oxford St. Drummers and picketers marched downtown, chanting, “What do we want? Climate action. When do we want it? Now!”
The strike operated as part of the international Fridays for Future movement. The initiative’s presence in London is led by a team of students who spent their summer protesting weekly outside City Hall. Genevieve Langille is a 16-year-old student at London Central Secondary School and one of the strike’s organizers. While unable to vote herself, Langille said she wants eligible voters to make their decision with climate in mind.
“We can’t vote, of course, but I feel like there are other things we can do and that’s why student strikes are important,” said Langille. “We just want our voices to be heard.”
Western University students attended the strike alongside the city’s high school students. Emily Renneberg, a fourth-year finance student at Western, said that while a lot of young people don’t have the ability to vote, strikes are a good way to effect change.
“I think there are a lot of ways to get involved but this is a really visible way of showing that you care,” said Renneberg. “Things that are visible have more of an impact, especially in the age of social media. It gives young people a really good chance to be active.”
With the majority of Gen Z underage, the pressure for the youth vote falls on millennials. CBC recently reported that millennials make up the largest group of eligible voters in this year’s election. Evidently, the millennial vote matters—and with youth-led climate protests sweeping across the country, there is high demand for political leaders prioritizing climate action.
Rose Geraghty, a grandmother of two that regularly strikes in sympathy with Fridays for Future, said she wants people to acknowledge the climate emergency. She said she’s striking for the future and striking to inform.
“The only thing we can do right now is to vote in politicians, because they have the power to make change,” said Geraghty.
Geraghty cited Greta Thunberg, the teen Swedish activist leading the Global Strike movement, as her inspiration to protest.
“When a child tells you that you’re leaving them a mess… you want to clean it up,”she said.
This is the first year that London has hosted a large-scale climate strike. The city is among more than 400 Canadian jurisdictions to have declared a climate emergency, but Langille said there’s still a lot of work to be done.
“[City hall] releases a lot of the statistics on their emissions, but it’s not perfect,” Langille said. “We have provincial demands and local demands.”
Canada’s pledge to the Paris Agreement was to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030, of which it is already falling short. As of 2018, Canada had the highest greenhouse gas emissions per capita of any G20 country.
A general climate strike is scheduled for 3 p.m. on Sept. 27 at London City Hall.