While the growing recognition of groups such as women, black, or indigenous people in the past decades has helped us move forward towards equality, some critics would say that it also divided people further into their different identity politics. While I sometimes had trouble defining myself, it was in the middle of a crowd, surrounded by young people sharing my values, that the revelation of who I was came to me. There was indeed one thing that could unite us all, and on the 27th of September, with my chin raised high towards the sky and with the determination to elevate myself even higher, I stood, with my peers, at my first global climate strike. Here, I understood who I was. Our planet and our desire to care for it is what brought us all together on the climate strike regardless of our race, gender, nationality, language, or any other difference in our identity, differences that we so often misinterpret as walls between us. I saw crowds of people standing in front of the British-Columbia legislature building, it was so inspiring. So many teenagers holding posters with quotes going from a deeply concerned tone to sarcastic jokes about the government’s negligence. All of them had one goal: call for action.

Participation in the strike was neither a “childish stubbornness” nor a simple desire to miss a school day. Rather, it was a cry from children, teenagers, youth from all around the globe, to show the world that there are still people who care about the future of our planet. Adults were part of the movement too. One of the oldest participants I met on the strike told me: “I think they had to close schools today at all. Teachers had to come here right after the pupils”. 

The strike reached a new record of participation: 7,6 million people stood up for climate action during the week of the 20th-27th of September1. The message is clear: the movement is growing, and growing fast.

I did not go to the strike with the goal of telling the government what they should do and how they should do it, because to be honest I had no idea. Before coming to Victoria, I did not know that climate change had become such a deep concern around the world. I had no knowledge about climate change and the role of humans in it until I came upon scientific evidence pointing to it as the reason for  so many natural disasters I had heard about. I realize that this is the reason why climate action seems to come along so slowly: lack of awareness. Maybe for someone who lives in Canada, this seems impossible; the media is filled with news about climate change! It is impossible here to read the newspaper daily without coming upon the climate topic. However, where I come from, Latvia, there is very little amount of information about it. This is when we can assess the impact of media in our lives: Canada and Latvia are two countries who are not impacted greatly by climate change yet, however, one is very aware about it, the other overlooks or even seems to forget that there is a problem. 

This feels so weird, particularly considering that the problem is so huge! The global average amount of carbon dioxide hit a new record in 2018: 407.4 parts per million – most of it caused by humans burning fossil fuels. Overfishing is increasingly disrupting the food chain in the ocean. Because of rising temperatures and glaciers melting ocean temperature is rising and its volume expanding in consequence. When I visited Croatia this year, I could tell that pollution had reached a new level. Though many have not yet seen the sun setting behind  a floating field of plastic bottles and cans, I have, and I can say that one should prepare to have it in the background of any picture of the sea in the near future if action is not taken. 

The Paris agreement set a goal to keep the increase in global average temperature below 2°C – we have already reached 1°C warmer. It might seem appealing for those who, like myself, come from a cold country and would love to stop freezing in winter, but I can tell you it is not. According to an article published by The Climate Reality Project:  “we’ll likely see many natural systems begin to cross dangerous points of no return, triggering lasting changes and transforming life as we know it. 

The IPCC projects that going from 1.5 degrees of global warming to 2 degrees could mean: 

  • 1.7 billion more people experience severe heatwaves at least once every five years. 
  • Seas rise – on average – another 10 centimeters (almost 4 inches), 
  • Up to several hundred million more people become exposed to climate-related risks and poverty. 
  • The coral reefs that support marine environments around the world could decline as much as 99 percent.
  • Global fishery catches could decline by another 1.5 million tons.

While solutions sometimes seem so simple, it becomes more complex when people actually have to change their habits. Remembering to bring your stainless water bottle, preparing lunch instead of buying a sandwich wrapped in plastic, driving to work instead of taking the bus, or even just picking up that candy wrap that fell out of your pocket… it would be useless to blame people for these small things, because most would take it personally and be resentful instead of trying to change. There is also the fact that many simply cannot afford to buy usually expensive alternatives for plastic bottles, toothbrushes or bags. Some environment-friendly actions such as being vegetarian can also be problematic because of health or traditions. It’s such a puzzle, and individuals cannot do it alone. Governments need to fulfill their role of serving people, not corporations. They still can change the situation by promoting green energy, supporting small agricultural producers, investing in support for developing countries who cannot deal with those problems on their own. Furthermore, they need to encourage and support young people learning about the issue. Money shouldn’t be a hindrance to learning about it, as Ariana, a student whom I interviewed at the strike, mentioned. Governments right now act in a selfish way, refusing to sacrifice what gives them power, even if it will be beneficial in the long term. As Ariana said “The economy can always be rebuilt once broken, but … we have only one planet.’’ 

Even now, I cannot say that I am completely sure of all of the arguments and facts that have been presented to me; I would not yet call myself a climate activist. But the strike opened my eyes and gave me an opportunity to widen my knowledge. I believe there is no better way to fight climate change than to be part of the biggest strike campaign around the world. It really felt good to be physically present with people who know what they are talking about, and to be able to ask them about what guides their actions. 

Terrible things are predicted if we do not move right now; it is urgent for everyone of us to invest time and effort to limit climate change. Although I can only relate my experience at the strike in Victoria, it was only a very small part of the puzzle. Knowing that similar strikes happened all across the globe on that day, I can only imagine the impact this movement will have in history. The movement of people who care.

INTERVIEW

Q:

How have you experienced the effects of climate change?

Definitely I see it in our oceans, it is marine life I am worried about the most because it is a cycle where everything relies on everything else and as soon as one stops functioning properly it causes a chain reaction.

:A

Q:

What is the main idea you wanted to get across by participating in the climate strike?

There are a lot of things we need. I think we need more renewable, affordable renewable energy like windmills and solar panels, which usually are expensive, hence lot of people do not get them. I think they need to be made more available to the public. And I also think that we cannot change what is already done, but we need to look at the future and at what we can do to prevent any critical damage to the environment. For example, by making bus passes available for free for students and other citizens, so people are more likely to take a bus rather than drive their own cars.

:A

Q:

Do you think it depends on the government? I mean, do you feel like there can be significant changes if  the government takes action?

I think it depends on all governments: federal governments, municipal governments and provincial governments. But I also think people have a big role to play as well, for example, if they can vote, they need to go out and vote, if they can take a bus, I expect them to do it.

:A

Q:

Do you think enough information is provided about climate change and actions to prevent it?

I am going to say that in my school probably not. We have talked about it occasionally in some classes like global politics class. There is one program available in my school for people who are concerned about the environment, but it costs about 100 dollars to participate, so I think we need more information on it.

:A

Q:

Do you think that it should be mandatory for schools to provide information about climate changes?

I do not think it should be mandatory, because if something is mandatory people are less likely to get it all in. But I do think it needs to be incorporated like all arts classes in schools and it needs to be a consideration in all work forces.

:A

Q:

Do you think this strike, where the majority of participants are youth, can send a more powerful message than if adults were part of it?

I think that if more people all around the world participate regardless of their age it would make more of a statement. And I do not think that protesting is going to solve everything, but its a sort of message that we are sending. I personally am proud of youth organizing projects like this and being aware of it. More people is better!

:A

Q:

What was your family’s reaction about you going to strike?

My mom actually told me to go. She said “there is strike on Friday and you should totally go”. And I said: “Yes, I should. “ My parents are very supportive, they are doing everything to help prevent climate change – they try not to use their cars as much and to use reusable containers and water bottles, etc.

:A

Q:

Do you think you are doing enough?

I do not think that individual changes can do everything, but I do what I can and what I cannot do, I try to do. I am satisfied with my actions, but there is always opportunity to grow.

:A

Q:

How do you feel about the argument that decreasing the demand of products, for example meat, will make the economy crash?

I understand it, but now I am more concerned about the climate and the planet I live on rather than the economy. The economy can always be rebuilt once broken, but we have only one planet.

:A

  1. This Global Climate Strike(https://globalclimatestrike.net/)
Megija Medne

Author Megija Medne

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