Hundreds of students lay down on the lawn in front of the legislature Friday, playing dead to symbolize the future they see for themselves without serious action on climate change.
They were on the grass for six minutes, one minute for each of the group’s demands for governments.
They’re asking governments to protect Indigenous rights with the adoption of the UN’s Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, commit to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 75 per cent of 2005 levels by 2030, transition to renewable energy and sustainable transportation, recognize environmental rights as fundamental human rights, protect natural resources, and support front-line communities affected by the climate crisis.
Student groups across Canada and around the world held similar events at the same time, kicking off a week of action on climate change that culminates in a general strike for students and adults on Sept. 27.
The die-in was followed by a march organized by Extinction Rebellion, from the Victoria Tourist Information Centre to Government and Belleville streets, where dozens of people occupied the intersection.
The day’s events were scheduled from 11 a.m., when students were encouraged to walk out of class, to 10 p.m. — 11 hours to reflect the 11 years climate scientists say the planet has to take serious action to limit the worst impacts of climate change.
Local teens Emma-Jane Burian, 17, Rebecca Wolf-Gage, 13, and Cade Anderson, 12, said they organized the student strike to fight for their future.
“What’s behind this is the fact that politicians are not acting on climate change,” Burian said. “The students here today came out to say that we need a future and we need to act.”
The first student strike in Victoria brought out just ten kids when Wolf-Gage organized it in December 2018. She had just watched a video of Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old Swedish environmental activist who has become the face of the youth movement to tackle climate change. Thunberg started organizing weekly student protests in August 2018 that have spread to more than 140 countries.
No one was organizing strikes in Victoria yet, and Wolf-Gage decided she needed to do something. After the first strike, she started to think the movement might catch on in Victoria.
Over the winter break, she organized some learning opportunities for other students to learn more about climate change. There, she met Burian and Anderson.
Growing up on Burnaby Mountain in Metro Vancouver, Burian had been surrounded by environmental activism for most of her life.
“The Trans Mountain pipeline was in my backyard, so I saw protests around that, especially when the government decided they wanted to expand it,” Burian said.
She moved to Vancouver Island when she was 13, around the time Donald Trump was elected U.S. president, which felt like a “slap in the face” to her and the environment.
Before she met Wolf-Gage, she was researching climate change and trying to figure out how to be more involved.
“I went to the UVic library, and I’d get out books and books, like how to start a movement,” she said.
Anderson, who is non-binary and uses the pronouns they, them and theirs, has always been interested in activism and the environment. Their mother was also involved in environmental protests when she was younger. So when Wolf-Gage asked Anderson to help organize, it felt like something they were meant to do.
All three teens are vegetarians who usually bike or bus to school. They’ve signed on to the pledge not to have children until the government takes serious action on climate change.
“We really need governments to start acting so we can have children, because I do want to have children, but I can’t if this is going to be the place they have to grow up in,” Burian said.
Events planned over the next week
Friday, Sept. 20
Organized by Our Earth Our Future
Time: Noon to 1 p.m. (school walkouts at 11 a.m.)
Location: B.C. legislature
Organized by Extinction Rebellion
Time: 2 to 10 p.m.
Location: Occupation of intersection at Government and Belleville streets
Monday, Sept. 23
Organized by the Greater Victoria Teachers Association, Parents 4 Climate, and Dogwood B.C.
Time: 1:30 to 3 p.m.
Location: B.C. legislature
Tuesday, Sept. 24
Organized by Friends of Carmanah Walbran
Time: 7:30 to 10 a.m.
Location: Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy, 525 Superior Street, Victoria
Wednesday, Sept. 25
Organized by Divest UVic
Time: Noon to 4 p.m.
Location: UVic Student Union Building (SUB)
Tuesday, Sept. 26
Organized by Rise and Resist
Time: Noon to 1:30 p.m.
Location: Intersection of Fort and Douglas
Friday, Sept. 27
Organized by Divest UVic, Our Time, Our Earth Our Future, and others
Time: 11 a.m.
Location: Students from all around the region will be gathering at the legislature as part of the Global Climate Strike.
We are calling on everyone to walk out of your school or workplace for the afternoon and join us for a march and street party downtown.
Time: Noon to 1 p.m. at the legislature, and a march following that
Location: B.C. legislature and streets around Victoria