Photos by Hannah Walters-Vida / Editor-In-Chief
On Sept. 27, hundreds of Hamiltonians gathered in Gore park to raise the alarm bell on climate change and urge leaders to take action.
The climate strike came as part of a week of mass climate actions from Sept. 20-27. Hamilton’s climate strike was one of many general strikes around the world, in which people walked out of school, work and their homes to raise the alarm on the climate crisis.
According to Global Climate Strike, an organization helping to coordinate the strikes, 7.6 million people around the world took part in actions around the world.
Since March, students from schools across Hamilton have been holding regular demonstrations at City Hall to bring attention to the climate emergency. They have been working alongside the Fridays for Future movement, in which students from around the world walk out of their classes to showcase the severity of the climate emergency. By missing out on classes and thereby making sacrifices to their education, they aim to demonstrate how deeply the climate crisis will affect their futures.
A 2018 report from the United Nations International Panel on Climate Change highlighted the severity of the climate emergency. According to the report, it is of critical importance to reduce carbon dioxide emissions to 45 per cent in the next 11 years. The report found that failure to do so will result in ecological degradation and major loss of life.
Climate Strike Canada, an organization coordinating climate strikes across Canada, provides a list of demands for protestors across the country. The list includes a just transition to a renewable economy, the legal entrenchment of the right to a healthy environment, biodiversity conservation, rejection of all new fossil fuel extraction or transportation projects and the elimination of fossil fuel subsidies.
Makasa Looking Horse, a youth leader from Six Nations spoke at Hamilton’s climate strike. She described how Indigenous people are disproportionately affected by environmental issues, noting that only nine per cent of the community has access to a water treatment plant.
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“In Six Nations – only 30 minutes away from here – we’re having a water crisis . . . And that should not be happening when we’re surrounded by Toronto and Hamilton. Everybody else has simple rights to electricity, to clean water, those are all human rights that we should have,” Looking Horse said.
Speakers at Hamilton’s strike presented different perspectives about the best ways to address the climate emergency.
Lily Mae Peters, a student at Westdale secondary school and one of the strike’s organizers, urged people to change their consumption patterns and make sustainable lifestyle changes.
Lane O’Hara Cooke, co-founder of Fridays for Future Hamilton, urged people to look beyond individual solutions to the climate crisis. She noted that the climate crisis is a systemic issue that requires systemic solutions.
“It is the one percent, it is the fossil fuel industry, that is doing the most damage. We need to stop giving tax cuts to these fossil fuel corporations, we can’t do it anymore,” she said.
Peters stated that the purpose of the climate strike was to raise awareness of the climate crisis and educate the public. According to Peters, the organizers of the strike wanted protestors to remain in the park.
“Fridays for future needs to be a peaceful movement, we need to bring people to an understanding about how climate change is, rather than blocking roads and creating inconvenience,” she stated.
However, many activists believe that in order to make change, it is necessary to disrupt public life. By shutting down traffic, protestors disrupt the status quo, thus giving people no choice but to pay attention.
Acting against the orders of police, hundreds of protestors marched down James Street south to Jackson Street west, eventually arriving at City Hall. A student-led group then marched into City Hall and demanded to speak to the mayor about how the city of Hamilton is going to combat the climate crisis.
The group occupied the building for approximately 20 minutes. Initially, police officers asked for a few representatives from the group to speak to the mayor. However, people were wary of “divide and conquer” techniques and wanted him to address everybody at once.
Eventually, protestors left the building and Mayor Fred Eisenberger addressed the crowd on the steps of City Hall. He thanked the protestors for pushing the city to make changes and urged them to keep pushing for change.
After a brief address, police officers escorted Eisenberger back inside. He did not answer questions from the crowd.
A group of approximately 20 protestors stayed after Eisenberger’s address and tried to enter City Hall, but were blocked by police officers.
While protestors had different ideas about tactics, their message was clear: Hamilton’s youth are demanding action on the climate emergency, and they are dedicated to holding leaders accountable to secure their futures.