Williams Lake area residents are invited to participate in a climate action march on Friday, Sept. 20.
The event will coincide with similar action across the globe when between Sept. 20 and 27, people all over the world will walk together to demand climate justice and emergency action to tackle the climate crisis, organizers Erin Hitchock and Tom Salley said.
“We want to raise awareness about climate change and that this is something people really need to be paying attention to and wake up to,” Hitchcock said. “The other aspect is to encourage governments to take stronger initiatives to reduce their emissions in order to address the global issue of climate change.”
Hitchcock and Salley are not part of a specific organization in leading the rally, but are doing it as human beings, she said.
She has a Facebook page called Cariboo-Chilcotin for Planet Earth and said Salley connected with her through that.
Participants are encouraged to make signs expressing what is upsetting them, encouraging them or giving them hope, whether they are insisting change or wanting to raise awareness about some of the unsustainable projects in Canada, Hitchcock said.
Salley said he is thinking about what his sign will say, but in the meantime, is hoping the rally will open the doors for more people to speak up and for more people to speak to election officials. “I’m not a scientist, but I would say we are seeing significant change everywhere and that everything is related,” he said.
In his 45 years living on the West Fraser Road, he has witnessed climate catastrophes, he added.
“We’ve had the pine beetle epidemic and significant burns.”
Salley has also noticed that six new species of birds have moved in that time frame as well.
The rally will begin at Red Shred’s Bike and Board Shed on First Avenue South at noon and proceed to city hall.
Praising Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old Swedish climate activist who began striking for the climate last year and is sailing to the United Nations Climate Action Summit taking place on Sept. 23, Hitchcock said it is important to support her and other youth who are leading the way.
“She really got this whole campaign going last year when she decided she was no longer going to go to school because no one was taking climate change seriously,” Hitchcock said. “She said what was the use of going to school for a future that may not even exist so she began striking outside of the Swedish parliament and since then has gained traction around the world.”
There will be petitions available for people to sign asking the City of Williams Lake to declare a climate emergency and commit to providing maximum protection for all people, economies, species, ecosystems and civilizations, and to fully restore a safe climate and take effective action at the necessary scale and speed and to transform the economy to zero emissions and make a fair contribution to drawing down the excess carbon dioxide in the air.
September 20 is a non-instructional day, which means students wanting to participate will not have to leave school.
“Hopefully students will still come out with permission from their parents and support from their teachers,” Hitchock said.
As Salley gathered financial support to purchase advertising for the rally, he became aware he needed to register as a third party with Elections Canada once he’d raised more than $500.
“Since Maxime Bernier, leader of the People’s Party of Canada, said there is no climate change and that mentioning climate change in an advertisement was a partisan issue and that if you were raising money for an advertisement you had to register as a third party,” Salley said.
He phoned Elections Canada, learned he had to register to run an ad in the newspaper.
“I registered as the Healthy Climate for Kids Party,” he said.
This article has been updated with the date being Friday, Sept. 20