Three students, all from different schools, met on the sidewalk in front of town hall June 14. They’re out to save the world.
“I’m here because climate change is a big issue and the youth are the ones who are going to suffer from climate change,” said Jonah Rubin Flett, a Grade 5 at student at Clark Rutherford Memorial School at Cornwallis Park.
“We want to make sure that the government knows that we’re trying,” said Sunna Bouchard Todd, who is in Grade 5 at Champlain Elementary across the Annapolis Basin in Granville Ferry. “We want them to help ban more single-use plastics.”
They’re part of the global Fridays For Future movement.
They hope to spread awareness about climate change and get the government’s attention so they start to ban plastics, reduce the use of fossil fuels that create of greenhouse gases, and look towards development of cleaner alternative energy sources.
Sophie Bouchard Todd, a Grade 7 student at Annapolis West Education Centre, is the other student and all three hold signs that say “Respect Your Mother” in reference to Mother Earth; “Children must be taught how to think, not what to think,” a quote from cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead; and “What the hell is it going to take,” a quote from Canadian scientist David Suzuki.
It was Jonah’s first time out for Fridays for Future, but for Sunna and Sophie it was their second time out holding signs and speaking with the public. The youngsters have known each other since they were little and this “Fridays for Future” endeavour isn’t a school project. They’re doing it on their own with no help other than some possible parental approval and encouragement.
Besides holding signs and interacting with the public on the busy Annapolis Royal sidewalk, they talked with Mayor Bill MacDonald and later visited several businesses to ask the owners what they were doing to help fight climate change.
Jonah said they aren’t taught much about climate change in school.
“In science class we’ve talked about it a small amount, but not enough to really teach kids,” Jonah said.
The news and parents are their sources of information. Sunna and Sophie’s mother likes listening to podcasts and she likes to share them with her daughters.
Standing at town hall, the trio is almost at sea level, and one of their big concerns is rising sea levels caused by climate change. “That’s one of big concerns for here,” said Sunna.
When people stop to find out what the kids are doing, the youths suggest to passersby that they should reduce the use of plastics, walk and bike more, and change their habits that contribute to climate change.
“It not only helps in saving the Earth, it’s also making you active and healthy,” said Sophie.
They plan to stage their Fridays for Future rally every third Friday until September when a worldwide protest is planned. “And we were going to go to Halifax for that,” said Jonah.
“If the governments do something about it, then we might stop, but if they don’t we’re just going to keep doing it until they do,” Sophie said.
The students ask Mayor MacDonald if he would declare a climate emergency, what actions are taking place to help climate justice, about removing all single use plastics, and if he would spend some of his personal time to fighting to halt climate change.
MacDonald said the town currently has no need to declare a climate emergency because the town and its citizens are already working to fight it. But he told them he wouldn’t rule it out.
“I said we might do it within the framework of an initiative and a proposal we were going to present for funding, but that this town – we certainly weren’t sitting on our hands,” he said. “They were preaching to the converted.”
While one of the signs quotes David Suzuki, Swedish teen Greta Thunberg is fast becoming the voice for those seeking climate justice around the world – and a voice the three Annapolis County students are listening to.
“She started the whole protest thing, and she does TED Talks and things and she’s now one of the more viral environmentalists,” said Sophie.
They’re trying to encourage everyone to start doing their part to get after governments because they’re the ones who really have the power to stop climate change.
“In a word? Inspiring,” said MacDonald about what the three students are doing. “As I said to them, the world that they’re inheriting has a lot of problems.”
He said that world has not been well managed in many respects, but youth are not shying away.
“They are standing up and taking on the challenge, and in doing so, though, they are asking us tough questions because they need information,” MacDonald said. “‘What have you done?’ ‘What will you be doing?’ ‘Why aren’t you doing it?’ and ‘What more will you do?’”
MacDonald said he answered all the questions the youth asked him.
“I’m amazed at the intellect and the interest and the depth of perception and understanding these young people have,” he said. “It’s truly incredible.”
He said the youth are incredibly engaged.
“As somebody who’s 66 years of age, not withstanding that I’m mayor of this town, as a citizen of this country 66 years of age, for the little bit of time that I have left on this planet, I have great comfort and pride that the future is in good hands with these kinds of young people,” he said.
What is Fridays For Future? It’s a people’s movement following the call from @GretaThunberg to school strike.
“Why are kids striking? School children are required to attend school. But with the worsening Climate Destruction this goal of going to school begins to be pointless,” the movement’s website explains. “Why study for a future, which may not be there? Why spend a lot of effort to become educated, when our governments are not listening to the educated?”