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LETTER: 'While COVID-19 is terrifying, the impacts of climate change will be so much worse'

"Please think about climate change this week and how you can help."
climate-strike-4-min
Tens of thousands attended the Global Climate Strike at Vancouver city hall Sept. 27, 2019 before marching over the Cambie Street Bridge into downtown. Photo Dan Toulgoet

This time last year, on Sept. 27, 2019, I joined 120,000 people on the streets of Vancouver and marched for climate justice. My 4-year-old son was with me, he walked most of it and we carried our homemade banners together. We were supporting the global ‘Fridays for the Future’ movement, which was essentially being run by high school kids.

Across the world, about four million people marched that week, likely to be the biggest climate strikes in history. It felt we were making history.

For me, it was the first time I was marching with one of my kids (we took a lot of snacks!), and it probably was the first time for many of the thousands of teenagers who marched with anger on that windy day. I was amazed at how many of them had felt compelled to turn up and I remember thinking ‘I wonder what all their parents make of this? And how can we get more grown-ups to join them?’

One year later and we sadly won’t be seeing the same numbers on the streets this Friday - the global pandemic has made any mass gatherings difficult. But while COVID-19 has been (and still is) terrifying and has dominated everyone’s lives this year, the impacts of climate change will be so much worse. After a week of choking on wildfire smoke here in Vancouver, it all starts to feel very real, so why are we still leaving it to our kids to take to the streets?

Being a climate activist in 2020 isn’t like what it used to be back in the ’70s. Climate activism today is smart, it’s efficient, it’s tech-savvy and it's a truly global movement. We have some incredible leaders showing us the way forward, but we still need the mass support of people in numbers to push for change. So grown-ups please, think about how much time and effort we spend helping our kids with school and sport, and take a portion of this to help protect the place where we all live.

Taking action doesn’t mean you have to be a particular political stereotype. While it is great to see this topic on the political agenda, it's disappointing how it's become such a partisan issue where your political and professional views and your Facebook feed seems to dictate our opinions on climate change. They really shouldn’t. We have to start breaking out of our social and political comfort zones and work on this together.

To me, addressing climate change is a matter of values and survival. It's about taking care of people and the earth we live on. And particularly as parents, grandparents or guardians, we must stand up for this, because taking care of our kids really is the most important job we have in life. And that's something we can hopefully all agree on, no matter who we are, where we have come from or how we vote.

So please think about climate change this week and how you can help. And I don’t mean just recycle your coffee cup, I mean really support the climate movement that strives on despite the pandemic. If you are new to this, find a group, an activity or a petition that you can connect with or support, and reach out. Think about your circle of influence and what you can do. I recently joined a climate action group called For Our Kids and was instantly part of something bigger than me. And this group connects with many others, all part of the same bigger movement. Your voice, your ideas, your support, in your style, it’s all needed.

This Friday I’ll be supporting the Sustainabiliteens from a distance, with their Not Going Back campaign. You can help them too by writing or calling your MPs, or signing the petition.

Speak up, or find an (online) rally in your community, organized by Fridays for Future. You can join a virtual town hall with For Our Kids Victoria this week, or tune in for parts of the NYC climate week. Wherever you are, it’s time to do something. Everyone is needed and everyone is welcome. Your kids will thank you.

Lorna Pelly, For Our Kids