Photo C/O Elizabeth Svyatnenko
Faced with uncertain futures as a result of a rapidly warming climate, young people in Hamilton are joining a worldwide movement to urge leaders to take immediate and far-reaching action on the climate emergency.
Since March, a student-led activist group has been coordinating regular demonstrations outside of Hamilton city hall as part of the Fridays for future movement.
The strikes bring together students, environmental organizations and citizens in Hamilton.
The environmental community of Hamilton students, an alliance of environmental groups across the Hamilton and Catholic Wentworth district school boards, helps organize the climate strikes. They are also supported by Fridays for future, who organize climate strikes around the world.
The Fridays for future campaign began in August 2018 when Greta Thunberg, then 15, protested for three weeks in front of the Swedish parliament instead of going to school, demanding that leaders address the climate crisis.
Inspired by her actions, students from around the world began holding regular strikes to demand that their leaders take immediate action to address the climate crisis. Many protestors referenced a recent report from the United Nations international panel on climate change to highlight the urgency of the climate crisis.
The 2018 IPCC report found that it is of critical importance to limit global warming to 1.5°C above pre industrial levels. According to the report, any warming above that threshold will run the risk of long-lasting, irreversible changes resulting in major loss of life.
The report states that, in order to meet the warming target, it will be necessary to substantially reduce emissions worldwide. Meeting the 1.5°C limit would require reducing emissions to 45 per cent of 2010 emission levels by 2030, and net zero by 2050.
“Limiting global warming to 1.5°C would require rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society,” stated the report.
Many of the young people who will bear the greatest effects of the climate emergency are not yet old enough to vote. The Fridays for future movement provides a means for young people to demand that policy makers make the necessary changes to preserve the planet for future generations.
“The older generation, they might be more concerned with short term economic gain, but that’s because they’re not going to be around to see when our planet is on fire,” said Stephanie Foucault, an organizer of the Hamilton climate strikes. “The youth need to step up and really take charge of their future.”
The Fridays for future campaign is calling for an end to fossil fuel, demanding support for workers and developing countries during the transition to a renewable economy.
In Hamilton, protestors spoke specifically about the need to hold city councilors accountable to their pledge to substantially reduce the city’s emissions.
“Hamilton declaring a climate emergency is a great step, but we want to make sure that it’s followed up with some tangible action,” said Emmalee Frketich, co-founder of ECHS.
According to Angela Dittrich, an intern at environment Hamilton who was present at a climate strike held on May 24, transportation is a key area in which Hamilton can make changes to meet the emission reduction targets. For example, Dittrich stated that eliminating Hamilton street railway area rating would increase funding, which could lead to service improvements and make HSR service more equitable.
The fridays for future group plans to continue holding regular strikes to bring climate issues to the attention of leaders and citizens in Hamilton. Young people’s futures are on the line, and many feel that they have no choice but to stand up and demand change.
“It’s very frustrating to see how people are killing our earth,” noted a grade three Lyons Gate Montessori student present at one of the strikes. “If someone’s going to speak up we thought it might as well be us to help the earth.”