High school and university students demanding action on climate change march across Comox Road on Friday, May 24. Dozens of students participated in the rally and march, which began at city hall and snaked its way through downtown Nanaimo. (Nicholas Pescod/NEWS BULLETIN)

Nanaimo students press for action on climate change

Strike for Climate was held again Friday; students feel their concerns aren’t being taken seriously

Students from across Nanaimo converged on the lawn at city hall and walked the streets, demanding immediate action on climate change.

High school students cut class and were joined by university students and others at a Strike for Climate rally in front of city hall on Friday afternoon, where they urged politicians and older generations to not only take concrete action to deal with climate change, but to take it seriously. The students also marched throughout downtown Nanaimo, chanting phrases calling for an end to climate change and action on the environment.

It was the third such climate strike protest by Nanaimo students to take place this spring. The strikes have been spurred on by similar protests in Europe and come on the heels of a recent report by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which states that humans have 12 years to take serious action in order to avoid global warming and its crippling effects.

Alysia Boudreau, one of the event’s organizers and a student at Vancouver Island University who identified herself as being involved with the Green Party, told the crowd she is “scared” for her future. She said when she was growing up, all she ever wanted to be was a mother but with climate change becoming more of a reality, she no longer wants kids.

“I cannot raise children knowing that their future is this insecure, that they could deal with being able to go outside during the summertime to breathe the air that is their basic human right,” she said, adding that she fears for the amount of droughts and water shortage that will come from climate change.

Friday’s rally included speeches from Coun. Ben Geselbracht and Nanaimo-Ladysmith MP-elect Paul Manly.

Geselbracht told the crowd that it is “really important” that students not only continue to show up and demand action on climate change, but that they also hold city councillors accountable.

“A large part of that is becoming educated on what the city can do and what it says it is going to do and then make sure that it is following the timelines it has set forth,” Geselbracht said.

Manly, of the Green Party, told the students their protests and demands for action resonate with him on a personal level.

“In high school, I would be going to protests like this as well, but for other things. Climate change wasn’t the issue when I was your age. Nuclear war was the issue when I was your age. Environmental destruction was an issue when I was your age,” he said. “Getting active and being vocal and educating your peers and educating your parents is how you are going to change the world.”

High school students Kenny Baumel, Olive Somerville, and Adam Walker explained that they attended the climate strike because they’re all seriously concerned about what the world will look like in the years to come.

“I’m worried about my future. Our future now is climate change and that is the reality,” Baumel said, adding that he would like to have a family of his own someday but is worried about what the environment will be like.

Somerville said previous generations have put off dealing with climate change for years but that the time has come for action.

“In the ‘90s, we were trying to make changes by changing our light bulb and doing the little things but now we can’t wait any longer. We can’t just change our light bulbs anymore. We have to take these massive steps,” she said, adding that people will die unless action is taken.

RELATED: Nanaimo youths strike again to call for climate action

RELATED: Nanaimo students make statement at Global Climate Strike

Asked whether they felt politicians were taking their concerns seriously enough or doing enough, the students said they felt some politicians were trying to do their best and listening to them, but too many others were openly denying climate change and rejecting their concerns. The students felt it was unfair of the older generations to dismiss their concerns, given that there are years of data showing climate change is happening and will get worse.

“It is kind of annoying because a lot of older people don’t listen to us kids a lot of the time,” Baumel said. “But that is why I think [protesting] is very important because we are trying to make a positive change.”

Walker said even though there are some youths that make bad choices, it shouldn’t discredit other youths concerns about their future and the environment. He said young people are doing their research and educating themselves about the issues and impacts of climate change and want action to be taken, but aren’t being taken seriously.

“I just want some of the older generations to realize that there are some of us that know what we are talking about and want do know what we want to fix and how to fix it but we’re not being listened to, which is a huge problem,” he said.

During the march, a counter-protester who wouldn’t identify himself followed the students and called for increased carbon emissions, more pipelines and less action on climate change. He said he believes Canada should increase oil production and become less dependent on oil from countries with questionable human rights records.

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