Participants in the May 3 Student Climate march head down Jasper Avenue. Paula E. Kirman
On Friday, May 3, nearly 1,000 students involved in Climate Justice Edmonton and allied groups left their classes to march from Churchill Square down Jasper Avenue to a protest they had organized at the Legislature. Victoria School of the Arts and Strathcona High School seemed especially well represented.
This march was the latest climate strike carried out by the Edmonton arm of an international movement.
Last fall, a 15-year-old Swedish student, Greta Thunberg, stood in protest by herself outside her country’s parliament. Thunberg called for climate change to become the primary issue in the national elections against a backdrop of heat waves and wildfires. People all over the world responded to Thunberg, including Monica Figueroa, a grade 11 student at Strathcona.
Figueroa says she wanted to raise awareness on climate change but never saw how it might be possible until Thunberg began her strike. Through marches and relationship-building with Indigenous groups, Figueroa hopes Climate Justice Edmonton will “start a conversation on how … a Green New Deal [will] look … in Canada.” Getting older people to recognize and prioritize the ecological crisis is the main goal.
The Seniors’ Action and Liaison Team (SALT) participated in in the march alongside the students. John Wodak, chair of SALT, said “climate change is the most important long-term issue” today that calls for “a realistic and feasible plan for the long-term passing-out of fossil fuel extraction.”
Many Extinction Rebellion (XR) flags with their distinctive hourglass logo were visible in the May 3 protest as well. Founded last year in the United Kingdom, XR is using direct action to persuade governments to tell the truth about climate change and act on it as an emergency, not a partisan political issue.
“The window for preventing devastating climate changes is rapidly closing,” said Michael James, an organizer and spokesperson for the local XR group.
Allied with Climate Justice Edmonton, James hopes XR and other groups’ combined efforts will compel working-age adults to face how “[w]e have unethically forced today’s youth to shoulder the burden their parents were unwilling to bear.”
Dan Knauss writes, teaches, and makes stuff in Central McDougall. In 1979 he struggled with Grade 2 math, read The Lord of the Rings twice, and thought President Carter’s “malaise” speech was on point about greed and renewable energy.