Why Friday’s Climate Strike gives me hope for the future of our planet

Students and youth take part in climate protests in Australia. Photo by Julian Meehan (Flickr).

Across the world, students and young people are mobilizing for the Global Climate Strike, the biggest day of climate action in history, inspired by 16 year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg. With our years of inaction piling up and climate forecasts worsening, it is inspiring to see so many young people coming together to fight for a livable planet.

In a few months, my partner and I will be welcoming our first child, a son, into this world. It feels strange knowing that soon I will be raising a child in a world in which the natural environment is on the brink of collapse. Beyond the anticipated climatic doom and gloom that we are subjected to on a daily basis, the growing uneasiness of global political tensions makes me a nervous parent-to-be, even on the best of days.

I have been fortunate to have been involved in political and environmental activism from a young age, and I am privileged to work professionally in a sphere that allows me to pursue this passion. Yet the global climate strike inspires and moves me in a different way than I have yet experienced.

As a parent, you want to know that you can reassure your child that things will be fine, that despite how bad it may seem, home is still a safe place to be. These days, I am often up late at night, wondering if my son will have the same access to nature, to fresh and clean water and a pristine Manitoba wilderness that I have been so fortunate to explore. I am worried for my kid because I haven’t the remotest idea what the future will hold–an anxiety-inducing proposition that grows with each passing day.

I find myself disgusted with the actions of governments at home and abroad, those that have prioritized short-term returns and shareholder profits over sustained environmental protection. I am frustrated with the fact that we still entertain climate skepticism both at the grassroots level and from our own politicians as if the most highly regarded research scientists are somehow untrustworthy, or have deceitful ulterior motives.

The overarching influence of the fossil fuel industry is clear, from the Alberta tar sands to the outrageous notion that we should not invest in public transit because it may limit one’s personal freedom.

It is incredibly alarming to see our politicians taking so little action on climate in general, but in particular in response to the demands of those striking in defense of it. We have heard nary a peep from the provincial government, whose climate plan seems to favour rhetoric and hyperbole over any systematic change to reduce our carbon footprint. Similarly, in Saskatchewan, their environment minister refused to attend the strike action in Regina, instead suggesting that concerned students should read the province’s (largely inadequate) climate plan instead.

Far too often, our leaders are smug, standing by their actions or proposing a milquetoast alternative instead of systematic change. Yet, somehow, I hold out hope that we can put aside our differences and work together to solve this crisis. Greta Thunberg has stepped up where thousands of politicians have failed, holding those in power to account. To see entire nations embarrassed on a global stage is a powerful sight to be seen, one that should inspire action and not retreat.

This Friday feels like the beginning of a turning point, one where we make an active decision to either save our planet, or live with the consequences. When you frame it in this manner, it befuddles the mind as to why our politicians and leaders will not even attend the rally and strike, let alone embrace the systematic change that students are calling for.

I know all too well that my son will probably read this one day. I hope that he will see the positive results of our actions. Depending on our choices and decisions in the coming years, he can learn about this chapter in human history, one in which we made real sacrifices and stopped a serious catastrophic event. Or, he can learn about how we failed to rise to the occasion and left his generation to deal with the consequences of our inaction.

Our choice is clear. See you at the climate strike.

Zach Fleisher is a communicator and researcher based in Winnipeg. He works with the Amalgamated Transit Union 1505 as their director of communications and enjoys paddling, cycling and hiking in his spare time. You can follow him on Twitter @Zach_Fleisher.

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