Students gearing up for Friday for Future climate change action

April 25, 2019   ·   0 Comments

By Constance Scrafield

The Citizen had the good fortune to sit down with six young people, four of them Orangeville District Secondary School (ODSS) students who will be marching on the Friday for Future school strike on May 3rd. 

The other two are in elementary school and will not be permitted by their principal to participate in this school strike for climate change but are very much tuned in to the subject.

We met at the home of the Rowan family of Orangeville. In attendance were Olivia Rowan (grade 10), Maevis Chamberlain (grade 10), twin brothers Joshua and Gabriel Lonuzzo (grade 11), and James Rowan and Eliyah Phillips, both grade five. 

For those not acquainted with what is, originally, this strike of students, it was begun in August, 2018, in Stockholm, Sweden, by 15-year-old Greta Thunberg. She decided that, once a week, she would skip school and sit in front of the Swedish parliament buildings to protest the lack of action “adults” were taking to slow the effects of climate change.

“Why should we be going to school to study for a future that soon will be no more and when the politicians are doing nothing about that future?” are Greta Thunberg’s burning questions. 

She has been invited to ask them in several important venues. She has addressed the Swedish national legislature and she stood before the assembled dignitaries at the 2018 United Nations Climate Conference in Poland. In both occasions, they sat and listened, without interruptions, to her 15 or 20 minute accusatory questions and demands. At the end of her speaking, they applauded vigorously and even stood for her.

Then, nothing.

Now, an international icon, a youth standing up to climate change, to the adults who have created it and must begin immediately to repair it, Greta has inspired young people around the world to march “with” her in their own home towns and cities, on their own local governments. More to the point, perhaps, she has invigorated the interest young people now have in the subject. They use their social media to talk about it, try to learn the facts about it, support the insurrection that is coming….

In our turn, we had questions for these students and were anxious to hear their voices.

To begin, the question of why they are interested in the current global problems led Olivia to say, “I’m passionate that we’re not giving back to the planet. In the schools setting, our education [could focus] that the planet needs to be taken care of. As options, we could have greenhouse classes, world classes..”

Joshua is planing to be an environmental scientist, “knowledge-based, better if it were action, not just theorizing. We went to visit Whole Village in Caledon this year. I’m more interested in practicalities than policy.”

His twin Gabriel, looking forward to studying mechanical engineering, where he will be very interested in designing, did maintain, “I think we need to abruptly curb and stop the use of fossil fuels right now. I think the best option for this is for the government to institute legislation that subsidizes technologies like electric vehicles and public transportation.” 

James was concerned that other students think the protesting students were being pushed by the teachers when they were striking about the province’s new education budget cuts. He worried they will be back to tease them about climate change strikes as well. Even though he is not allowed to go on the march for the climate, he still believes in the benefits: “I really support that we need to care for the planet.”

Eliyah spoke up for Greta, “She’s standing up for what she thinks.”

Maevis was sure she “wanted to help the environment somehow. I’m not sure how yet.”

They are still looking for more students to walk with them on Friday, May 3. 

“We do have the impact to work up the chain. We have an online poster and online information passed around.”

They told us, “This is the first year this has really happened. Students realize they can work together to make governments aware we are the voters of the future.”

Said Gabriel, “As consumers and citizens, we have to choose to make these changes – changes to the way we spend our money, use transportation, heat our homes, and who we vote for…”

Their major concern and point of optimism is that nothing actually needs to be invented for the necessary changes to happen: “Everything we need is already there,” said Olivia.

“There are potentially thousands of jobs in green energy.”

Gabe made the point: “It really has to come from government policy in the end. The change will start with us and it is happening now in many incredible ways.” 

They defined “sustainability” as “when something can function forever.”

Years ago, the pioneer oil company, Exxon, made known the environmental dangers of the oil industry. 

“At the time,” Joshua told the company, “people were convinced. And then, [the warnings of danger] dropped off.”

They were agreed: “We can’t keep digging for oil.”

Maevis made things clear, “All the news, that’s all you see. The main issue gets clouded by everything else and we don’t have time. But it’s not going to go away.”

As individuals, they offered suggestions. Eli said, “You can walk or take a bicycle. People have all the junk they need – they can just recycle. But what doesn’t recycle goes to the land fill.”

From Joshua, “In every large or small decision [government] has to consider the environmental effect.”

Olivia admitted, “This is a tough question. A lot of people don’t want to attack this head-on. We have to move from our materialistic lives. All those things everyone thinks they want but don’t need. Once you’re grounded in that belief, it spreads out from you.”

In the end, Eliyah told us, “don’t chew gum – it’s no good and then you spit it out. And don’t go to fast food places – you can eat at home.”

Following on the premise that, as individuals, we wield two powerful weapons: our wallets and our votes,  Joshua noted: “We have a third weapon: our voices.”

 The students will gather together at ODSS at 1:00 pm on Friday, May 3 and walk into town to Dufferin-Caledon MPP Sylvia Jones’ office lawn on Broadway. They will be rallying there until  3:00 p.m.


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