Although Perth could never be thought of as a hotbed of activism, the recent Global Climate Strike saw an enthusiastic group travel to Ottawa by bus and by car on Friday, Sept. 27. The climate change combustion chamber was ignited by 15-year-old Swedish sparkplug Greta Thunberg in the summer of 2018, and the movement soon spread world-wide.
Cheryl Nash, a co-founder of the not-for-profit organization ecoPerth, was one of the organizers of the local contingent, along with her colleague Bob Argue. “EcoPerth arranged a bus for primarily high school students.” she said, “We worked alongside Nolan Attridge and Ursula Brown of Perth & District Collegiate Institute to confirm seats.” Nash explained that for many, the event turned into a family affair, with students and parents all travelling together. “Out of the 50 odd seats available on the bus, likely 30 or 35 were filled by youth. Others were taken by adult community members.” Nash went on to say that there was a lot of interest both at the school and in the community, and they could easily have filled another bus.
Major news media sources put the number of protests taking place as 4,500 locations in 150 countries. The Guardian, a prominent British daily newspaper, reported that roughly 6 million people participated in the events.
Ramsey Hart, Executive Director of The Table Community Food Centre, also travelled to the Ottawa event on the bus. He mentioned that there were many Perth people in Ottawa besides those on the bus, so the Perth and area numbers may have been in the hundreds.
Hart added that “Graham Beck, who owns Little Stream Bakery, organized some car-pooling, and the folks at Blueberry Creek Nature Centre also organized car-pooling. Graham issued a press release as to why he was shutting down the bakery for the day. He joined a number of larger businesses in doing so like Mountain Equipment Co-op and Bridgehead.
“Though the issue and messages on the protest signs were serious and sometimes dire,” mused Hart, “the march had a celebratory feeling – I think this happens because it feels good to share one’s reality of living with the concern about climate change, and voicing those concerns as a large group. Regardless of the impact on policy change or the election (Canadian federal election 2019) results, this collective action had meaning to those of us who participated.”
Hart recalled a memorable moment, after winding through the downtown core, coming onto Wellington Street, just as the “large and very energetic contingent from Gatineau was coming up the hill from the bridge. We walked on, spirits lifted, like we were surfing on their wave right up to the gates at Parliament Hill.”
In speaking with some of the youth, Hart found that this was their first big rally of a serious nature. “It was a positive experience for them and I hope it leads to them to staying engaged in expressing their concerns and their hopes for us to address the climate crisis or other issues that they become concerned about in the future.”
Hart has noticed recently how more people from many walks of life are becoming engaged in climate activism. As an example, the presentation in Perth by the global environmental movement “Extinction Rebellion” drew a large audience. “This is encouraging,” he said. “I’m confident this momentum will continue regardless of the outcome of the federal election.”
An Ottawa Citizen story by Jacquie Miller confirmed that “the crowd was dominated by young people, who were quick to point out they were the ones who would inherit the environmental disaster created by grown-ups.” She went on to report that: “Marchers filled the lawn on Parliament Hill and adjoining Wellington Street. They carried clever, heartfelt homemade signs: There is no Planet B. We are Skipping our Lessons so we Can Teach You One. Stop Burning Fuels or we will all be Fossils …”
The teenager Thunberg who fast-booted the global phenomenon was diagnosed with Asperger’s four years ago, and she has said that being afflicted with the disease has caused her to become more motivated, rather than hiding in the closet. Thunberg had originally become depressed about the fact that adults did not appear to be taking climate change seriously, when she became aware of that fact at the age of 8. Jonathan Watts asked the pertinent question in a wired.com article: “A Teen Started a Global Climate Protest. What Are You Doing?”
What started out as a youngster on a lonely watch in front of the Swedish Parliament has grown to the world-wide movement we are now seeing. Thunberg is now feted by the masses, as well as heads of state everywhere. The slight, pigtailed teenager from Sweden has no plans to fade away. Here’s hoping that Thunberg and her generation still have time to save our planet.If you have any comments or suggestions, please email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org