“So today is Friday and as always, we are on Climate Strike, young people all around the globe are today sacrificing their education to bring attention to the climate and ecological emergency.”—Greta Thunberg
On Friday my friend Elaine and I joined more than 10,000 Albertans to show our support for Greta Thunberg and Alberta’s climate activists in the climate strike at the Alberta Legislature because as Greta says, “nothing is impossible if enough people stand united and…never give up.”
I’m sure everyone who participated in this rally came away with different impressions. Here are mine.
The Climate Strike
The event was extremely well organized despite the short notice—the date and time of Greta’s visit were announced on Wednesday. We were reminded to march in “a good and kind way” and not to engage with counter-protesters. (No problem there—the Rebel Media truck plastered with images of Greta and chirping her famous “how dare you” phrase could have been mistaken for an ad promoting the event).
Before setting off for the Legislature we learned some new chants, talked to the Extinction Rebellion guy who was giving away cookies and watched the helicopters circling overhead (it was like the sixties all over again).
Two images of the march will always stay with me. The first was an Indigenous drummer who sang as we moved down Jasper Avenue. We didn’t understand the words, but when he was finished we burst into cheers and applause which he acknowledged with a small smile. We’re all in this together.
The second was the feeling of awe as we streamed down Jasper Avenue and turned south towards the Legislative grounds, thousands of us flowing around the reflecting pool before finally coming to rest in front of the steps of the Legislature. We are part of a global community united by a single purpose, to mitigate the disastrous effects of climate change.
Many Indigenous speakers took the microphone before Greta appeared on stage. The one I found especially moving was the young woman who rejected the myth that Alberta produces “ethical oil.” She said this myth obscures the fact that energy companies, with the support of provincial and federal governments, have committed “violence against the land” and against Indigenous peoples and their way of life.
This is an extremely important point for two reasons. First, Indigenous peoples have had to go to the Supreme Court of Canada time after time to enforce the rights they’ve been granted under section 35 of the Constitution Act and second, the “ethical oil” argument only works if Canada compares itself to the worst human rights violators and polluters on the planet. (When was the last time parents told their kids they didn’t have to bring home As and Bs, because anything above an F would do?)
I was especially interested to hear what Greta would say given the flak she received from climate change deniers who don’t like her “bossing” them around and the United We Roll folks who drove a convoy of trucks to Edmonton to “show Greta we do not need her yelling at us.”
Did she yell at us and boss us around?
No, she thanked Albertans for “the wonderful reception” she’d received and acknowledged we were on Treaty 6 land. Then she gave a thoughtful and articulate speech about the science of climate change and our role in mitigating its impact.
She said young people around the globe sacrifice their education on Fridays to bring attention to the climate and ecological emergency. They do so because they will not be bystanders in the climate crisis and “want the people in power to unite behind the science.”
She referred to the IPCC SR 1.5 report that concluded the world has a 67% chance of limiting the global temperature rise to below 1.5 degrees. On Jan 1, 2018 we had 420 gigatons of carbon dioxide left in our CO2 budget. Today that number is less than 360 gigatons and at current emissions levels the remaining CO2 budget will be gone in less than 8.5 years.
She discussed the suffering that will result from not addressing climate change, especially for “indigenous communities and people of the global south,” and reminded us that the Paris agreement requires equity so richer countries like Sweden and Canada will need to reach zero emissions faster than poorer countries to give poorer countries a chance to improve their standard of living by building necessary infrastructure to provide roads, schools, hospitals, electricity, and clean drinking water.
She said we can’t leave the responsibility to address climate change to “individuals, politicians, the market or other parts of the world.” This is not a partisan political question, “our main enemy right now is physics.”
Not once did she mention Alberta’s oilsands, Jason Kenney, or the CEOs running oil and gas companies let alone those pathetic sods from the United We Roll convey who spent hours parked blocks away honking their horns.
The 10,000 Albertans who attended Friday’s rally are not alone.
In a recent ARC podcast, the respected economist and investment strategist Peter Tertzakian and his co-host Jackie Forrest discussed Greta Thunberg. Mr Tertzakian said Greta was a “global icon”. He welcomed her getting onstage and telling world leaders to wake up and create real solutions. He praised Greta for bringing focus to the consumption side of the fossil fuels equation and for asking everyone to take personal responsibility for their energy consumption.
Jackie Forrest said 50% of emissions are created by people (40% by industry). She suggested ways to reduce our personal emissions including changing the cars we drive, changing how we heat our homes and becoming more energy efficient.
Mr Tertzakian said he’s personally concerned about climate change and owns a Tesla Model 3 that will “beat the pants” off its Audi and BMW comparables. Mr Tertzakian, like many of us, believes if you’re committed to addressing climate change there’s no excuse for not making renewable choices.
In yet another display of childishness, Mr Kenney’s government drew the blinds and closed the windows of the Legislature so it wouldn’t have to see or hear Greta Thunberg speak.
It doesn’t matter.
When 10,000 Albertans come together from all over the province to support Greta’s Climate Strike and well respected economists welcome Greta to the stage, we’re unstoppable.
Mr Kenney and his anti-climate change supporters just don’t know it yet.