The academic quadrangle at Mount Allison University rang with chants today as hundreds of mainly young voices rose in unison: “What do we want? Climate justice! When do we want it? Now!”
As striking students waved placards with messages such as “If we love our planet, why are we wrecking it?” and “I want you to panic,” the voices rose again, chanting: “Water is life, Water is sacred, Stop the pipeline, Stop the hatred.”
The climate strikers then marched down York Street on their way to Bill Johnstone Memorial Park.
Today’s march and rallies were organized by the Sackville Youth Climate Crisis Coalition (SYCCC) whose members include students from the town’s middle and high schools as well as its university. The Sackville climate strikers were joining millions of others from across Canada and around the world in a global protest.
After the strikers reached the park, Tess Cameron, a student at Tantramar Regional High School, read a series of Coalition demands that included federal legislation imposing a 65% cut in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, reaching zero emissions by 2040; government rejection of all new fossil fuel extraction or transportation projects and the elimination of subsidies to fossil fuel companies.
The Coalition called on the New Brunswick government to stop resisting the federal carbon tax; to maintain a moratorium on fracking and to prevent resource industries from exploiting land and people for their own profit.
Finally, it reminded Town Council of its commitment to review its 10-year Sustainable Sackville plan and called for “clear and consistent communication” between the newly implemented municipal roundtable on climate change and the citizens of Sackville.
To read the entire list of demands from the Sackville Youth Climate Crisis Coalition, click here.
Roots of climate change
Climate strikers also heard from a series of speakers including Helen Yao, a second year Mt. A. student who spoke for Zero Hour, which she described as a youth-led global climate justice movement.
“We must address the real roots of climate change,” Yao said. “I am talking about patriarchy, racism, colonialism, capitalism and all the ways we have chosen to systematically exploit the land and the people.”
She listed a series of things that she said were not sustainable including waging overseas wars for resources and building economic systems that turn natural resources into commodities and that put private profit ahead of human wellbeing.
“Ignoring the part fossil fuel companies play in our political systems and our education systems is not sustainable,” Yao added.
Indigenous water protectors
The rally also heard from Rowan White, a first-year Mt. A. student who described herself as an indigenous water protector.
“We talk a lot about Greta Thunberg, but how many of you are aware of all of the indigenous water protectors serving around Canada and even speaking to the U.N.?” White asked.
“If we’re going to take any sort of action to fix the climate, we need to start with the protectors of the land,” she said, adding that the federal government loves to talk about such things as reconciliation with indigenous peoples, while also building an oil pipeline through their sacred lands.
“I want to speak to Mt. A. specifically,” White continued. “Mt. A. loves to say it’s a liberal college that we value and include everyone,” she said, adding that the university’s routine acknowledgement that it occupies indigenous land means nothing without direct action.
“Anyone can say that they support their indigenous students, but putting all of your money into fossil fuels doesn’t match your words,” she said in an apparent reference to Divest MTA’s demand that the university drop its investments in the top 200 publicly traded fossil fuel companies over the next four years.
“I challenge all of you to look up indigenous issues where you are and all over your country,” White told the rally, “because it’s your voices that will help ours to save our climate.”