Final event of week-long climate rally draws hundreds of students out of school to downtown event
Holding a white flag by her side, Katie Gair looks across the lawn of the SUB and smiles.
Almost right on cue, at 11:00, a mass exodus of students flood out of the Clearihue building towards Gair standing with a few dozen protesters outside the SUB.
A couple hundred UVic students joined protesters outside the Legislature today for the final event of the “week of action” to advocate for climate change awareness, and were among the many that walked out of classes around the world to join the global climate strike. In downtown Victoria, an estimated 20 000 children, students, and other members of the community flocked to the B.C. Legislature lawn to strike in favor of climate action.
As a fifth year Marine Biology student, Gair was inspired to join the general strike — culminating Victoria’s “week of action” for climate change awareness — after witnessing the impact climate change has on the environment.
“I’ve seen firsthand the effects of climate change. The deer populations are showing their ribs really early, and the fawns are all dying, and the bear cubs aren’t making it,” she says. “I come from an industry town where really old growth forest is being logged without any thought, and it’s just really devastating to see how the country is focused on industry… We really need to start thinking in a more sustainable way.”
Gair may have been at UVic for five years, and seen firsthand the effects of climate change, but the difference between Gair and the hundreds of other protesters assembling outside the SUB hardly varies.
With the population swelling, and students eagerly looking to get into position for a group photo before heading downtown to join the main strike at the B.C. Legislature, there’s people of all ages at UVic’s rally.
There’s parents with their children, varsity athletes with their teammates, and groups of students with painted faces holding flags and banners to stand in solidarity with young people across the country. There’s first year Commerce student Liam Bonnor, who believes politicians — especially in the United States — are going against environmental regulations that will impact the future for young people.
“I think that it’s important that we — as young people, the future generations that are going to be the most affected by these changes — that we should be going out and protesting and if we don’t go out and do it, nobody else is going too,” said Bonnor.
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 week of global climate action — which took place from Sep. 20 to 27 in 117 countries throughout the world — brought millions of protesters together in hopes of sparking change.
The environmental protests were spearheaded by Swedish teen climate activist Greta Thurnberg, who was in Montreal on Sep. 27 to lead thea 500 000-strong climate march in front of thousands of protesters.
The first global climate strike was held on Sep. 20, and the Sep. 27 strike is the first demonstration after the United Nations held an emergency summit on Sep. 23 in New York. At the summit, Thurnberg drew praise for criticizing world leaders to take action against climate change.
“I should be back in school on the other side of the ocean yet you all come to us young people for hope. How dare you,” she said. “You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words.”
The rallies began in Victoria on Sep. 20 with a “die-in” at the Legislature, and were followed by a food security event on the quad led by UVSS’s Divest UVic Campaign on Sep. 25, and a bank card cut up on Sep. 26.
Divest UVic also hosted a protest at the UVic Board of Governors meeting on Sep. 24. The Sep. 27 walkout was organized by the leaders of Divest UVic and endorsed by the student society in a press release sent out earlier in the week.
“Students at UVic join increasing global demands for action on climate change,” the statement read. “UVic has ignored calls to divest from fossil fuels from students, staff, and alumni since 2013. This mass student walkout will demonstrate to the University that students will not stand idly by as they profit from the destruction of the planet.”
NDP leader Jagmeet Singh marched in the climate rally in downtown Victoria, while cities across the country saw thousands of students skip class to join their local climate rallies. An estimated 10 000 people came out in Halifax for a die-in, Toronto held a rally at Queen’s Park, and thousands flooded the streets of downtown Vancouver for a climate demonstration.
About 860 cities around the world planned for protests across the world on Sep. 27, and some businesses closed shop to stand in solidarity with the youth protests. Mountain Equipment Coop (MEC) and Lush Cosmetics were both closed in support of the climate strikes.
Shortly before the hundreds of students on campus at UVic left for the bus or their bikes, Jessica MacVicar summed up why she and the thousands of students across the country took a stand to support climate change awareness.
“The planet is dying,” the UVic student said. “And our future is at risk.”