The sun shone brightly on the hopeful faces of close to 200 climate concerned citizens in the lakecity who joined hundreds of thousands across the world in the Global Climate Strike and March.
In recent years, the scientific community has issued increasingly dire warnings about the real effects climate change is having and will continue to have upon our planet over the next few decades. In response to forecasts of irrecoverable harm to the planet we all share Greta Thunberg, a teenage girl from Sweden, began protesting outside of the Swedish parliament demanding something be done. Now, as Thunberg addresses Congress in the United States thousands, perhaps even millions, of students and activists, many of them as young if not younger than her, are taking to the streets of their cities and towns to raise awareness and hopefully inspire meaningful action.
In Williams Lake, this march was organized by Erin Hitchcock and Tom Salley who secured permission for the event and helped students plan the route. While the smoke from the fire that claimed Diamonds and Dust and the New World cafe still hung in the air, it didn’t deter around lakecity climate activists from gathering at Red Shreds and marching on City Hall.
Their numbers were diverse and included students from Columneetza, Marie Sharpe and LCSS Williams Lake campus and more from throughout the area. Backing them up was a large contingent of the older generation, who first drew attention to climate change back in the 80s. The signs they held were a mix of homemade and printed but all were held aloft with gusto.
The march was met by enthusiastic honking from passerby’s while chants of ‘Whose future? Our Future!’ rang out from the marchers. Upon reaching City Hall, a chant was started to call on Mayor Walt Cobb to come out and talk to them was sounded but not answered, though Hitchcock said this was likely because he was out of the office. Councillor Ivan Bonnell was there representing the City of Williams Lake and joined in the march at the beginning of the event.
Following this, Hitchcock thanked everyone for coming out and marching and invited them to take the mic and say a few words. More than a few took advantage of this, including students and other young people.
Ella Kruus, who led the march from the front with her homemade banner, read from a speech she’d prepared for the occasion. She began by defining climate change in scientific terms before calling for action against it.
“I’m here to say the fire must be put out. it’s not a just a spark of warming, it’s a full-fledged flame heating our Earth. Climate change is not only threatening the existence of hundreds of thousands of species it could also threaten the existence of us homo sapiens,” Kruus said.
Even though she’s only 12, Kruus said she remembers when it used to be common for Williams Lake to get snow in November. Now, she says we’re lucky if we get any by Christmas.
While climate change had always been on her mind, she’d brushed it off as something someone else would tackle. When Thunberg began to gain momentum, Kruus was inspired by her and decided that now was the time to act and “put out the fire.”
Her friend Evie MacDougall followed with an unplanned speech from her heart where she acknowledged that, while it may not be something we want to do, action on climate change is needed now. In her eyes, climate change is no longer something we can “leave to other people” and it is up to the youth, like her, to deal with it.
“It’s not just climate change and global warming anymore, it’s our human footprint. It’s all the problems we’re creating, all the garbage in the oceans, it’s the melting ice caps, it’s the fires. It’s everything we must deal with,” MacDougall said.
For some marchers like Rylee Smith, seeing everyone come out to march in Williams Lake filled her with hope that there is still a fighting spirit left in people. Even if it’s too late, Smith would want to go down fighting for what is right so that in 50 years when people look back upon us, she can say she did her best.
“I did my best to motivate other people, I did my best to bring hope to the world and I did my best so that we’ll be able to look back with no regrets on our lives. We’ll be able to say, you know what, I think we were actually able to do something really special for the planet and the people here,” Smith said.
Adrien Zimmerman, meanwhile, wanted to thank all the adults who marched with the youth on Friday.
“This is the issue of our generation. People born 10 years from now are going to read about this in textbooks,” Zimmerman said.
Inspiring change both locally and internationally is what Nathan Wycotte hopes will come out of this event. He feels that this could be one of the last chances to “save our dying planet” and that if actions aren’t taken now, we’ll pass a point of no return.
“I see some people say ‘climate change isn’t real, so why should we do something about something that might not be true?’ The worst-case scenario for taking action is we clean up our earth and the stock market takes a dip. The worst-case scenario for not taking action is, everything on this planet will die,” Wycotte said. “I don’t even know why we’re debating this to be honest, the debate’s over.”
Hitchcock and Salley could not have been more pleased by how the event went and the turnout they received. The purpose was to call upon government leaders, both locally, provincially and nationally to call for a state of emergency over climate change and take meaningful actions to reduce our contribution to it.
Both individuals and the entire community need to take steps to reduce their footprint on the world, Hitchcock said, and work together to further rectify the situation.
“I’m really inspired to see so many youth involved here because (this march) is for them and the millions of species around the world at risk of extinction right now and you know what, humans might be on that list too,” Hitchcock said.
Several petitions were handed around to be signed, Hitchcock said, including one to be delivered to the City of Williams Lake calling on them to do everything in their power to reduce emissions. She plans to help organize more marches in the future.