Students head to the legislature to demand grown-ups stop killing the planet
News | by Paul Dechene
“Adults keep saying that we owe it to the young people to give them hope. but I don’t want your hope. I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act. I want you to act as you would in a crisis. I want you to act as if your house is on fire. Because it is.”
That’s from Greta Thunberg’s Jan. 25 address to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
If you haven’t heard about Thunberg, she’s a 16-year old Swedish climate activist who has been going on strike from school every Friday since September. She says that she’s doing this as a challenge to the leaders of her country to honour the Paris Agreement of 2015, take the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) reports on climate change seriously and fight to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius.
As word spread about Thunberg’s actions, her School Strike for Climate inspired young people around the world to follow her example and also walk out from their classrooms every Friday.
And this worldwide, youth-led, environmental movement has declared March 15 as a Global Strike for Climate.
According to the website that has been coordinating the event, Fridays For Future (fridaysforfuture.org), 1,209 places in 92 countries have signed up to join the walkout.
In Regina, at least two groups have been organizing to gather at the provincial legislature building at 10am.*
I’m a little compromised in writing about this as, at my daughter’s urging, I’ve been attending organizing meetings for the climate strike.
The EnviroCollective is a recently formed group of local people concerned about the state of the environment and they’ve helped put together a pair of events in the lead up to March 15. These have been opportunities for students from around Regina to get together, build momentum for the strike and come up with slogans for their signs.
Speaking of signs, my personal favourite was written by a friend’s six-year old son. It reads: “Stop killing the earth, you stupid guys.”
Pay attention to the six-year old.
And Speaking Of Stupid Guys
Funny thing about the Global Strike For Climate happening in Regina is that it will effectively be a counter-protest.
Over the past few months, the Saskatchewan legislative grounds have been the site of protests organized by people with a decidedly different outlook on climate change: yellow-vest protesters and other pro-pipeline activists who are opposed to the very notion that we need to address fossil-fuel extraction if we’re to halt global warming.
While Canadian media have tended to paint these anti-carbon tax protests as “pro-pipeline rallies,” the messaging from organizers has strayed pretty far from the economics of the oil patch.
Social media posts by prominent yellow-vesters and signs at yellow-vest gatherings regularly call for the executions of Justin Trudeau and Alberta premier Rachel Notley for the crime of treason. And the entire movement has become tangled up with anti-immigrant sentiments and racist conspiracy theories. It’s not uncommon to see slogans about supporting pipelines alongside those stating we need to protect our borders from an influx of dangerous illegal immigrants.
White supremacist and neo-Nazi groups like the Soldiers of Odin and the Northern Guard have mingle quite comfortably at yellow-vest and other pro-pipeline gatherings.
Okay, sure — one such gathering of anti-carbon tax protesters on Jan. 8 on the Legislature steps officially requested no yellow vesters or anti-immigrant activists attend. And Saskatchewan premier Scott Moe found time in his day to address this crowd.
He was just there, he said, to show his support for workers worried about the potential collapse of Canada’s resource sector.
Let’s see if he can spare a few minutes on March 15 to show his support for students worried about the collapse of civilization.
“We are at a time in history where everyone with any insight of the climate crisis that threatens our civilization — and the entire biosphere — must speak out in clear language, no matter how uncomfortable and unprofitable that may be. We must change almost everything in our current societies. The bigger your carbon footprint, the bigger your moral duty.” — Greta Thunberg
Thunberg’s reference to “moral duty” was doubtless aimed at the world’s biggest carbon emitters: China, the United States and the European Union.
Canada will also make the list, not because it’s one of the biggest total emitters but because our per-person emissions are among the worst in the world.
According to a 2018 report by Climate Transparency, a partnership of climate research institutes and NGOs from around the world, Canada has the highest per capita greenhouse gas emissions of all the G20 nations. Our 22 metric tons of CO2 emitted per person more than doubles the G20 average of eight.
More alarming, according to the National Energy Board, Saskatchewan’s per capita CO2 emissions are 66.9 tons — meaning that if Saskatchewan was a country, its citizens would leave the biggest carbon footprint not just in Canada, but in the entire world.
Unfortunately, however, saying that this means Saskatchewan has the largest share of moral duty in the world’s fight against climate change usually falls on deaf ears.
Mention of our egregious per capita emissions are usually greeted with declarations that “per person doesn’t matter” and “we don’t need to do anything as long as China is emitting so much more than the rest of the world.”
And it’s true — China’s total emissions are far higher than all of Canada’s. So are the United States’ and the European Unions’.
But when you combine the 175 countries that can be considered tiny emitters — the countries that can say, “our emissions are so small, we don’t need to do anything” — you reach a staggering figure: 15.3 billion tons of CO2 per year. That’s more than China’s 10.6 billion, the U.S.’s 5.4 billion or the European Union’s 3.4 billion tons.
In other words, we’re all in this together. Small emitters and large.
It’s Time To Panic
There is a common refrain that you hear when people talk about the dangers of climate change: the IPCC says we have 12 years to stop climate change.
Except it isn’t true. We have zero years.
The IPCC report from which the “12 year” figure is taken actually says that if we want to keep global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius over pre-industrial levels — and we very much want to do that, because the more the planet warms above that point the more disastrous the outcome for us humans — we have to reduce our emissions by 45 per cent by 2030.
And then we only have another two decades to reach zero emissions globally.
To make cuts that deep, we have to be seeing massive reductions in carbon emissions right now, in 2019.
What would that look like?
It means doing things like decommissioning the planet’s entire fleet of cars or shifting everybody to a vegetarian diet in under a decade. It means ending coal-powered electricity generation tomorrow. It means changing our entire way of life — especially in places like Saskatchewan.
And we’re doing none of that. Instead, global emissions are still rising — especially in places like Saskatchewan.
Pay close attention to who’s marching on the Legislature for which cause. And watch who chooses to stand with the kids striking for climate on March 15, and who stands against them. Because when future historians write the story of the Age of Climate Change, it’s looking like the yellow-vesters, the pro-pipeline protesters, the oil lobby, Scott Moe — and, likely, all of Saskatchewan — will be listed among the villains.
Civilization is threatened. It’s time to act like it.
* Turns out, local kids get to cheat on the “classroom walkout” portion of the climate strike, as March 15 is coincidentally a day-off from classes at most schools. However, they have a chance to do a make-up climate strike on Friday, May 3, as Canadian youth who organized around COP24 — the 2018 United Nations Climate Change Conference — have declared that day a national strike for climate. Keep an eye out for news on what’s planned for that date.