Whistler students go on climate strike 

Local high school students join global movement protesting governments' inaction on climate change

click to enlarge PHOTO BY MEGAN LALONDE - CLIMATE CRUSADERS: Whistler students took to the stroll on Friday morning, March 15, to protest insufficient government action on climate change. The local students joined about a million of their peers who demonstrated across the globe on Friday, inspired by 16-year-old Swedish activist and Nobel Prize nominee Greta Thunberg.
  • Photo by Megan Lalonde
  • CLIMATE CRUSADERS: Whistler students took to the stroll on Friday morning, March 15, to protest insufficient government action on climate change. The local students joined about a million of their peers who demonstrated across the globe on Friday, inspired by 16-year-old Swedish activist and Nobel Prize nominee Greta Thunberg.

More than 75 Whistler Secondary School students and supporters skipped school and took to the stroll on Friday morning, March 15, to join a global movement protesting a lack of government action regarding climate change.

Wielding signs that read "Stop denying our planet is dying," "I'm skipping school to teach you," and "What we stand for is what we stand on," the students, joined by several community members—including one parent and his two young children who travelled from Squamish to participate—gathered in Whistler Olympic Plaza and marched down the Village Stroll. Their chants earned cheers and thumbs up from bystanders along the way, before the protest ended in front of Municipal Hall.

Whistler Councillor Arthur De Jong praised the students for their efforts and read a letter written by the students to council aloud before inviting demonstrators into Maury Young Arts Centre for an hour-long meeting and Q and A session.

"People did die, are dying and will die because of climate change, but we can change this if we work together ... we are determined to change the fate of humanity, and we demand the world's decision makers take responsibility and work to resolve this crisis," read the letter.

De Jong, who is in charge of council's environment portfolio, represented Mayor Jack Crompton, who was in Squamish for a meeting with local First Nations.

"Frankly, you make my job easier by being here ... This means a lot to me," De Jong told protestors.

The Whistler demonstration was spearheaded by Grade 12 student Matthew Ogilvie-Turner and co-organized by Diesel Kopec, in Grade 11—an effort than began with the boys putting up posters inside and outside of school and using social media to raise awareness of the event.

"We recognize that as a destination resort we rely on millions of people driving and flying here to stay—there is not much we can do about that," said Ogilvie-Turner in the letter.

"But is there an opportunity to educate all these people from all over the world about climate change and sustainability while they are here? Can we creaet our own carbon-offset program? Can we at least save the old-growth forest in our Community Forest?

"It's time for action.

"Whistler's leaders need to make their voices heard at the local, provincial and federal level. You have a powerful voice-use it to help us."

Though former Whistler Mayor and current Green Party president Ken Melamed may have attended "a lot of protest marches" in his time, "this is one of the most hopeful marches I've been to," he said following the demonstration.

"In the absence of any other successful interventions, this youth voice that has found its voice and is ... going viral across the globe, it's really giving me some increased and renewed hope," he continued.

"They recognize they're the generation that is going to inherit the mistakes and the failure to act—the inertia of my generation. Gosh knows many of us tried, but there's only so much you can push within the system. Maybe this is the voice that finally breaks through the inertia and incentivizes politicians, who are many of them mothers and fathers and parents who want to leave a legacy of hope for their kids. It's fantastic."

The local group joined the over one million students in over 2,000 places in 125 countries around the world, according to U.S. non-profit 350.org, who missed class and took to the streets in support of Friday's climate strike.

The mass movement, dubbed "Fridays For The Future," was initiated by Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old Swedish student and climate activist.

She first burst into the spotlight last August when she decided to go on a school strike, sitting outside Sweden's parliament buildings each day rather than in class, to protest climate change and rising emissions. Following Sweden's general election in September, she continued her efforts with weekly sit-ins every Friday.

In addition to the worldwide demonstrations that took place on March 15, Thunberg's actions have also earned her invitations to speak in front of global leaders at the World Economic Forum and the COP24 United Nations Climate Change Conference.

On Thursday, March 14, it was announced Thunberg has been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.

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