Global climate strike coming to Vancouver Island next week

Local News World

Victoria, UVic, preparing to host various events in “week of action” from Sep. 20-27

Photo by Mike Graeme

Environmental activists will gather across the Greater Victoria region later this month for a general strike and week-long rally to advocate for climate change awareness, standing in solidarity with other major cities across Canada and around the globe. 

Victoria will host six separate events over the seven days, culminating in a general strike calling for university students and workers to walk out on Sep. 27 and join a rally at the B.C. Legislature. 

In the wake of the United Nations declaring last year that the world needs to “do more and faster” to prevent climate change from reaching irreversible levels, a Global Climate Strike — taking place from Sep. 20 to 27 in 117 different countries throughout the world — will bring millions of protesters together in hopes of sparking change. 

Spearheading the movement for environmental change is Greta Thunberg. The Swedish teenage climate change activist has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for her climate activism and began the “Fridays for Future” school strike in August 2018. 

The movement was prompted when Thunberg, 15 years old at the time, was seen striking alone at the Swedish Parliament instead of going to her Friday classes. Seven months later, the protests spread globally, with children in over 2,000 cities in 128 countries walking out of school one Friday in March to stand in solidarity with Thunberg and spark a climate change discussion. 

Thunberg will also lead the New York global climate strike on Sep. 20, three days before UN officials are scheduled to meet for a Climate Action Summit at the UN headquarters in New York City, and will protest in Montreal on World Climate Awareness Day on Sep. 27. 

“We really want to empower students to get involved in the movement, and feel like they’re contributing. Because climate despair is really real for many students on campus,” said Juliet Watts, UVSS Director of Campaigns and Community Relations. 

“This is an issue that will affect everyone, the climate crisis is not something that is specific to certain groups… I think it’s really powerful to see the whole world coming together, and even more so that the youth started it and this is coming together that the adults are standing in solidarity with the youth.” 

Divest UVic plans to have events on the first four days of the week on campus, including a non-violent direct action training seminar in the SUB, a demonstration at the Board of Governors meeting on Sep. 24, and a food security picnic in the quad on Sep. 25. 

The week of action will kick off with a “Die-in” at the Legislature, and an intersection occupation on Government and Belleville streets on Sep. 20. 

“We will lie down at the steps of the legislature buildings and act as if dead to symbolize what the world might look like in the future if we don’t change,” says the Our Earth, Our Future group in a Facebook event page. 

Following the Die-in, protesters are invited to march through the streets of Victoria from 2 p.m. to 11 p.m. to advocate for climate change. 

Other events during the week include a rally with information booths and speakers touching on the importance of climate justice at the Legislature on Sep. 23, and a bank card cut-up—a rally downtown that will see protesters shred bank cards following news that the federal government may sell the Trans Mountain pipeline to private buyers. 

In a UN report last October, rising sea levels, droughts, and damaging storms were unveiled as consequences if the global average temperature rises above 1.5 degrees Celsius — the number outlined in the 2015 Paris agreement. 

More than 6,000 scientific publications in the 2018 UN report said we have 11 years to make changes to limit the impact of global warming, including reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 45 per cent below 2010 levels by 2030 and reaching a carbon usage of net zero by 2050. 

Teenagers across Canada have joined Thunberg in protesting on Fridays since the movement exploded in March, with about 60 strikes happening on Aug. 30 last month — including in Abbotsford, B.C., where some protesters have seen furious opposition to their rallies. 

For each two-hour protest at the Abbotsford City Hall, Angie Calhoun, 14, told the Globe and Mail her group will receive at least one middle-finger salute and multiple drivers intentionally spewing clouds of smoke from their vehicles. 

Thunberg recently made news for crossing the Atlantic Ocean by sailboat, the least polluting way she could find to travel, and attending a Fridays for Future event in New York City. 

Over 3 000 kilometers west of Montreal, also on the 27th, Victoria workers and students are invited to walk out of the workplace and school to protest climate change. One of the groups helping to organize the general strike, the Retain Action Network, has invited labour activists to join the environmental movement. 

“It’s one of those few moments in time where the environmental activists and labour activists get to meet in the street together and share a common cause,” said Eric Nordal, Coordinator at the Retail Action Network. 

“This is a big issue, and people are going to need to continue to take action — likely in escalating ways,” said Nordal. “Obviously, climate change is a global issue, and to have a coordinated action like this is a powerful moment in history.”