Over 500 people took to the streets of uptown Waterloo Nov. 29 as part of a worldwide Global Climate March that took place in cities all over the world. Starting Nov. 30, world leaders are meeting in Paris for the United Nations Committee of Parties (COP21), and this global movement was organized in hopes of showing that people are actively involved and concerned with climate change and to tell the leaders at COP21 that people want to find a way to divert the potential climate change crisis. </p>
The march started at the Waterloo Public Square and ended at 22 Willow Street, with people from many different backgrounds and organizations both starting off and finishing the event with speeches. A wide age range of people participated in the event, from young children to seniors.
University students were also present, including volunteers Hannah Wright, Jocelyn Flood, and Madison Tzaponis, all in their fourth year of honours global studies at Wilfrid Laurier University. They were thankful to everyone who participated in the event.
“I think that … a lot of people want to come out and help,” Wright said.
“Climate change is a global issue — it is not an issue that is small anymore … people are starting to look at the climate change, people are starting to see global warming happening, and they want to get involved and stop it,” Flood said.
“There’s something really powerful with solidarity,” Tzaponis said. “Everyone wants to feel a part of a community.”
The intention of the Global Climate March was to encourage world leaders to take climate change more seriously than they are currently. Catherine Gormley, a fourth-year student in phycology and communications at Laurier, said that “[Climate change] needs to be at the forefront of every political discussion, because it affects all issues.” Humanity faces rising sea levels and extensive droughts that threaten human existence in many parts of the world, and people are hoping that COP21 will take efforts to change this pattern.
The First Nations community was a major contributor to the march, and the organizers and speakers empathized on the importance of climate change action and indigenous rights going hand and hand. Meyeengun Henry, an active leader in the fight for aboriginal rights and a chief, spoke about the need for the First Nations of Canada to be heard in Parliament and about his personal goal to prevent crude oil from flowing through Line 9.
“We will be going into the Supreme Court of Canada over the issue of Line 9 very soon,” he said. Henry also said that before the governments make decisions about a certain area, it is important that they consult the First Nations of the traditional territory first.
Others talked about the importance of the indigenous voice as well. Richard Walsh, the Green Party candidate for Waterloo, said, “We have to learn to live sustainably, within our ecological needs, as indigenous people did for a millennia.”
Stephen Svenson, an academic staff member at Laurier teaching ecological citizenship and one of the organizers of the event, said that one of the primary goals of the event was to “link … the idea of clean air, land, water, and the climate with the indigenous struggle for acknowledgement.”
There were a number of groups involved in the organization of the march, including Svenson and his students, Divest Waterloo, and the David Suzuki Blue Dot Movement. It took over a month and a half to arrange, and the organizers were hoping to create awareness that climate change is a serious problem. They think that now is a good time for action, as in the past not as many people were concerned with the health of the environment.
“Our politicians are looking to us,” Svenson said. “They want to do the right thing, they want to take action on climate change, but they need a mandate from the people.” He hopes that such a demonstration, with over 500 people in unity, will encourage politicians to take action.
In the near future, Svenson said that “Canada … need[s] to … move rapidly away from our reliance on fossil fuels.” He also said that Canada needs to be working with vulnerable and minority groups both within and outside of Canada to help them combat climate change.
“We need to be a leader in clean energy,” Svenson said.