I was pleasantly surprised by the large turnout at the Youth Climate Strike for Action in Duncan on May 17.
Hundreds of young people from across the Cowichan Valley and beyond, as well as some adults, answered the call from Sierra Robinson and the Valley’s chapter of Earth Guardians to gather in Duncan City Square to raise awareness and take a stand against the growing threat of climate change.
The students I talked to at the event came from numerous schools and were willing to walk out of class that day to get their point across that climate change needs to be tackled now before it’s too late for their generation, and those that follow.
What struck me was just how passionate they were on this issue.
They brought and waved signs demanding that action against climate change be taken immediately by governments, and society in general, while speaker after speaker, intelligent and outspoken kids, talked about the “inconvenient truths” of a rapidly changing climate.
I remember when I was in Grade 11 and some of my fellow students were planning to stage a “walk-out” from our high school one afternoon to show support for the students at the nearby university who were demanding that an overhead crosswalk be constructed over a busy roadway after a young person was struck and killed on it.
I planned on attending that university when I graduated and was more than happy to leave my school in the middle of the afternoon to support the cause.
I felt embarrassed for my school and fellow students when I, and few other of my classmates, arrived at the demonstration and realized that merely a handful of us who had marched out of my school had actually made their way there.
It appeared that most were not the least bit interested in efforts to build an overhead walkway (which was constructed the following year) at the university.
Apparently, they headed to the nearest video-game halls and shopping malls to spend the rest of the afternoon and could care less about the safety of people crossing the street at the university.
Because of that experience, my first cynical thought when I first chatted with the organizers of the Youth Climate Strike for Action in Duncan before the event was that if students were to walk out of their schools with the excuse that they were going to attend an event to save the planet, most would consider it an early long weekend and just spend their free afternoon in fun and selfish pursuits.
But they came in droves and completely blocked City Square to express their outrage that their parents’ and grandparents’ generations would leave them such a climatic mess to deal with.
I found them very sincere and committed to drawing attention to their legitimate concerns.
It’s become clear to me that today’s students are much more aware of what’s happening around them and are more willing to take action if they deem it necessary on issues like climate change than my generation.
I don’t think it’s because they are any smarter; it’s just because it has become increasingly clear to them that humans’ mistreatment of the planet is causing so many problems that will impact their futures, they have no choice but to grow up quickly and try to deal with them as best they can.
Let’s hear it for the kids.