Environmental advocates flooded into Spirit Square on Friday, joining the other rallies around the country – and around the world – calling for a change in how we treat our natural world.
The rallies were inspired by young Greta Thunberg, who has staged weekly demonstrations dubbed “Fridays for Future” for the past year, calling on world leaders to step up their efforts on battling climate change and even sailed across the Atlantic ocean to attend the United Nations Climate Action Summit due to the carbon cost of plane travel.
The Campbell River event was also led by the city’s youth, as students like Timberline Secondary’s Wyatt Parrish skipped class to attend and help lead the rally, which began at Spirit Square before marching up to City Hall and back down to Robert Ostler Park.
“I believe that climate change has been and will continue to be the defining challenge of my generation,” Parish told the crowd as he took the microphone up on stage. “But I also believe that we, as people, can fix it. There are 7.7 billion people on this planet, and if we all stood up and recognized that everything we do makes a difference – from choosing to bring your own straw to McDonalds or Tim Hortons, refusing plastic bags because you brought your own from home that are reusable – those types of decisions alone will greatly reduce the emissions that are brought on by our consumer-based society.”
He also said that while Canada and Canadians might not rank highly in terms of the impact on the planet compared to other nations, we can take the lead here and stand as an example of what can be done elsewhere, as well.
“Canada is known for many things,” Parish says. “It’s known for its beauty and its kind people, and I think if we were one of the nations that were defining this war against climate change, we would stand out even more.”
Richard Hagensen of the local chapter of the Council of Canadians, who helped put on the event, says he was encouraged by such a good turnout for the rally and the fact that it was led by the youth of the community.
“We’re here in a supportive role and helped get things set up, but it’s really being led by the youth,” Hagensen says. “It feels really good to know that the cause is being taken up by the next generation. We need to raise awareness of the climate crisis and the need to transition away from the use of fossil fuels in order to save ourselves and all other life on this planet.”
Local author Andrew Nikiforuk also spoke at the rally. Nikiforuk has written more than his share on the use of fossil fuels and the economy – including numerous books on the subject – and says there are more emergencies before us than just the use of fossil fuels for our energy.
“Many democracies are failing and our struggling economies increasingly serve the 10 per cent,” Nikiforuk says. “Our technologies have become instruments of surveillance and manipulation. Our ravenous consumption of things is driving the extinction of birds, mamals, insects, fish, and indigenous people.”
But there’s hope, Nikforuk says.
“Our politicians tell us that the problem is so grand, that individually, we can’t do anything,” he says. “That is how the status quo breeds despair and inaction. Remember that despair and inaction has only one master, and that’s the status quo.”
So we need to make some tough decisions, and we need to do it locally, he says.
“That’s where we can make the greatest difference,” Nikiforuk says. “Here in Campbell River and here on this island. We must prepare for the incoming economic and political storms. We must build a hybrid local economy radically less dependent on fossil fuels. All change begins at the margins of civilization, and islands are at the margins of civilization.”