Squamish students demand action against climate change

More than a dozen youth led a protest at town hall and address the mayor

Even though she's only 12 years old, Cedar Pidgeon and her Sea to Sky Learning Connections classmates are trying to save the world. On May 17, more than a dozen students marched to the District of Squamish town hall with their handmade signs.

Pidgeon, who organized the protest, said she's joined her mom at pipeline rallies. When she didn't see action at a local level, Pidgeon decided she would do something, and invited her classmates to join her.

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"Scientists are saying in less than 12 years, the effects of climate change are going to be irreversible. Let's say I live to 60. I'll be living for 60 years in the effects that politicians now and leaders now have not taken control of and have not dealt with," Pidgeon said to Mayor Karen Elliott inside town hall.

"Adults are giving us hope, but we don't want hope. We want action. We want them to feel the fear that we feel. Then we want you to act."

Elliott spoke to the protestors about the resolutions and actions council has taken recently, as well as the challenges the municipal government faces with policy and other levels of government. She noted they passed a motion presented by Howe Sound Secondary students last month to ban single-use plastics in Squamish.

"This first 12 years, vitally important," Elliott told the students. "We're going to measure what our footprint is now so that we can set the targets to get us to where we need to go for 2032.

"We need all of you to keep the pressure on the adults in your lives, on us, because this is urgent," Elliott said. "Keep writing to us, keep coming to council. If we're not doing it fast enough or enough, then you need to keep raising your voices, because this is the generation that needs to speak to this issue."

The mayor told the protestors that she and District staff could come to their school to answer questions, explain what they're doing and get feedback. She encouraged the students to also reach out to their local MLA and MP.

Student Bronwyn Maloney-Turner, who joined the protest, wasn't convinced the urgency the students feel was understood. 

"It sounds like you're taking a lot of like little steps toward the big picture, but we've been doing that for a long time and it's not working fast enough. They put a deadline on how long we have to save the whole planet. Obviously, you're doing what you can, but are you trying as hard as you can? Because we're not going to have a future. All of us aren't going to have a future. We're not going to get to be at this stage that you're at right now because the world is dying," she said, her eyes filled with tears.

Elliott said cities have control over 50 to 60 per cent of their greenhouse gas emissions through local waste and transit systems. "We're going to do the best we can in Squamish to meet those targets in 2032 and 2050, but it won't be enough if the rest of the country and the rest of the world don't move with us.

"I've been waiting for this. I've been hoping for this," Elliott told the Chief of the youth's May 17 protest. "Council was thrilled when the students came forward and asked for the single-use plastics ban. This is the next step of this. This is the generation that needs to get loud and angry and keep pushing us."

She said the legislation won't satisfy the changes the students want to see in the short-term, but the council is trying to reach long-term goals.

"It's not going to happen overnight, but we are committed to taking action" Elliott said. "I think British Columbia will lead the country on this. I think we have the progressive governments in place to do that, but for some people, it's going to look slow in the beginning."

After addressing the mayor, Pidgeon said baby steps are not enough.

"This town can make an impact on bigger communities, but if we're going to actually start changing the world and making all of our generation across the world have a future, we need to do stuff way bigger than this," she said.

 Pidgeon said the group plans to use their signs every Friday, echoing the global #FridaysForFuture movement.

The Friday student protests began last August in Sweden, after student Greta Thunberg held a sit-in outside Swedish parliament every day for weeks to protest what she said was a lack of attention to climate change.

Her campaign got a lot of attention and later the 15-year-old decided to protest every Friday. The movement has since spread around the globe. Go to https://www.fridaysforfuture.org/ for more information.

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