Gavin MacRae photos

Comox Valley climate strike draws thousands to Courtenay march

Sep 28, 2019 | Environment

By Gavin MacRae

Comox Valley residents joined millions of people marching worldwide on Sept. 27 demanding that governments step-up their efforts to tackle the climate emergency.

From Antarctica to the Arctic, Kathmandu to Vancouver, an estimated seven million people have taken part in thousands of demonstrations in the last week, including 800,000 Canadians.

About 3,000 Comox Valley residents rallied at Simms Millennium Park before starting a march through downtown Courtenay, according to Mackai Sharp, a leader of the group Youth Environmental Action, which organized the event.

Jessie Everson from the K’omoks First Nation opened the event by drawing a parallel between the quickly receding Comox glacier and the fate of humanity if the climate crisis is not averted.

“The glacier is a standing testament to the environmental degradation of the Comox Valley, said Everson. “If that glacier is to go, we will go too.”

Youth Environmental Action speaker Sienna Stephens was no less direct: “Learning about climate change and what it really means for my future has completely changed my life,” she said.

“There is no more time to wait around. We must lead by example and show [political leaders] what is expected,” Stephens said. “So please look at your own life and decide where you can make change. Even if it’s hard, be informed about the climate crisis. Start these important conversations with your family and friends. Be aware of who your money is going to each time you make a purchase.”

Protesters then marched a loop around Courtenay’s downtown core and back to Simms Park. Police halted traffic as the blocks-long procession took to the road.

Youth Environmental Action leader Emma Faulkner gave one of the final speeches.

“This is just the beginning of a conversation we are so ready to have,” she said. “History has always been shaped by the power of youth.

Over 200 climate strikes were held across Canada Friday. In Vancouver over 100,000 people attended, in Victoria over 20,000, in Ottawa up to 20,000 and inToronto up to 50,000, according to estimates by Greenpeace. Montreal outdid them all with 500,000 demonstrators – or one in four residents – turning out for the event.
“It’s far exceeded what we expected, everywhere,” said Cam Fenton, campaigner for international climate group 350.org, which organized many of the events. “It’s the largest mass climate mobilization in history.”

Swedish teen climate icon Greta Thunberg is largely credited as the inspiration behind the climate strike movement. Thunberg began by striking every Friday, by herself in front of the Swedish Parliament in Stockholm, only 13 months ago.

Young people will live to see the effects of climate change worsen significantly if the burning of fossil fuels is not curtailed. Those effects include more frequent extreme weather events, droughts, fires, sea level rise and reduced food security.

Gavin MacRae is assistant editor of the Watershed Sentinel and a contributor to the Comox Valley Civic Journalism Project. He can be reached at gavin@watershedsentinel.ca

 

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