On Friday morning, students from Fernie Secondary School, The Fernie Academy and members of the community marched down Second Avenue, demanding climate justice for a second time.
“Hey, hey, ho, ho, climate change has got to go,” they chanted loudly while waving signs, many made of recycled cardboard. One sign read: you’re scare of dying of old age. I’m scared of climate change. Another proclaimed: if you breathe air, you should care.
This was the second strike for Fridays For Future in Fernie and Kate Brennan, a senior high school student at Fernie Secondary School thinks that “it went really well.”
After their first strike in September, Brennan, who organized the strikes, says that the fight just wasn’t over yet.
“We still wanted to get the message out to more people and really spread that this isn’t a one time thing for us, this is a continued issue that we really want continued action towards,” she said. “So we wanted to show that by coming out again.”
The protesters began their march at Fernie Secondary School and ended up on the steps of city hall, where Brennan gave a speech to those gathered in the chilly winter air. She explained that Fridays For Future and school climate strikes are part of an international movement of youth demanding action on climate change.
“We are demonstrating today, with millions of youth around the world to show that action to address the climate crisis is important to us and it is something we are willing to sacrifice our educations for,” she announced passionately to the crowd.
In her speech, Brennan commended her fellow protesters on striking on Black Friday, “one of the biggest days of shopping and consumption of the year,” and urged everyone to be more “conscious of the way we consume and of what we’re buying and why we’re buying it.”
As protest signs waved in the air, Brennan spoke about the relationship between the protesters and local government. She noted that Fernie is clearly a community that is willing to make change happen.
“Since our last climate strike, we have seen the city take some positive steps towards sustainability and energy efficiency,” she said. “We can work together to realize the zero carbon future that we need. So many solutions are already out there, it’s about the choices we make and about seizing every opportunity we can to decrease out emissions.”
Before ending her speech, Brennan asked people to “continue to demand more of ourselves and of those who have chosen to become our leaders.”
Mayor Ange Qualizza was next to address the crowd and mentioned several ways in which the city of Fernie is working towards becoming more green.
Qualizza began by stating that, “We have approved moving a climate change adaptation strategy through all of our decision making and into our asset management plan so every decision we make is going to be met with a climate change lens.”
She also mentioned a meeting with deputy minister Mark Zacharias on Sept. 23 that saw about 17 mayors and regional directors from across the province gatherto discuss local governments’ options for regulating single-use plastic items.
“Our request to the minister was that we want to discuss options for municipalities to regulate single-use plastics items, see provincial initiatives that will assist local governments to unify their approach in regulations and request the support and review from the minister regarding appropriate measures.”
According to Qualizza, other eco-savvy initiatives that the City of Fernie is undertaking include re-writes to the city’s building and plumbing bylaw and a move towards more electric vehicle charging stations for homes.
“We take it seriously,” she said. “We are committed to the flood plains mitigation, raising the dyke to protect our infrastructure on your behalf and we are committed to make really sustainable decisions so I hope that we continue these conversations.”
When asked whether we could expect to see more climate strikes in the future, Brennan answered, “hopefully we’ll strike again in January and then continue it throughout the year.”
“I really think the youth of Fernie care about climate action and want to see a change happen and I really did as well so I thought that we could come out here and show that to our local government and show that this is an issue that really matters for all of us, for our futures and for our ability to continue to live on this planet in the way we do and I think it’s really important for us to take action now, not when it’s too late.”