Greta Thunberg is a fifteen-year-old Swedish girl who stopped going to school on Fridays to demand stronger climate action from her government. This one simple act has inspired millions of people worldwide and sparked school strikes throughout Europe, in Australia and now in Canada as well.
A Simple Refusal
While many of us are still caught up in the tasks assigned to us by our teachers, supervisors and managers, Greta has seen with piercing clarity that these tasks were designed for a world that no longer exists.
So Greta refused.
And she asks us to look at our own daily lives and consider where our actions are leading us.
When we look at photos of Greta, we can see her desperation, her frustration with the adults who are erasing her future even while they claim to be protecting her, but we can see something else as well. We see bravery and compassion when she speaks in front of large crowds. We see kindness as she talks with those who choose to stop and speak with her. We see tenderness as she sits and reads, waiting patiently for the adults to make things right.
It is this mixture of desperation, bravery, compassion and patience that has inspired so many. Greta is not the first to ask us to stop and look at what we are doing to our planet — indigenous people have been doing so for decades if not centuries — but she has the loudest, clearest voice at this moment in history and it is imperative that we all stop and listen to her words.
Greta’s voice is now beginning to resonate here in Canada. Sophia Mathur of Sudbury was the first to protest in Canada — but momentum is gathering and there will be strikes across Ontario beginning on December 7th.
A Low-Carbon Future is a Beautiful Future — So Let’s Celebrate
Greta has asked us to stop and reconsider a social order that is driving us over the edge — but we must also demonstrate that a better world is possible. As Fridays for Future roll out in Canada, let’s celebrate the beauty of a post-carbon world. To change a society we must shine a light on injustice, but we must also give people an enticing glimpse of what an alternative world might look like. The civil rights movement was driven by anger at the injustices of the world, but that anger was tempered by the beauty of the black pride movement. Black ministers and poets and academics and musicians showed the world how much richer all of our lives would be if we simply accepted what they had to offer.
A world with fewer fossil fuels will be safer, more meaningful and more just. And the seeds of that world are already growing all around us. Cities with fewer gas-powered cars and more electric vehicles will be more peaceful and less polluted. More pedestrians and cyclists means more smiles and nods, healthier hearts and greater connections between neighbours. A switch to renewable energy will mean safer careers and less deaths due to lung and brain disease. Local food means tastier fruits and vegetables. More plant-based meals will mean a healthier, happier population and less cruelty to animals. Cutting back on unnecessary consumption will mean less plastic crap and more time spent with friends and family.
If you choose to attend a Fridays for future protest, I urge to carry this spirit of celebration with you — bring a guitar or drums, fly a flag on your bicycle, bring jokes and poems and healthy food to share with other brave, desperate, compassionate people.
A Million Simple Acts
Not everyone will be able to take a day off to protest on December 7. But there are a million ways to show your solidarity. You could take a long lunch and drop in briefly. You could stage a smaller protest at a busy intersection near your home or work. In his work on social movements, Manuel Castells noted that early workers’ movements were most successful when workers also lived in close proximity to one another — this was because protest flowed through the channels of daily life and women were able to take the lead in organizing and supporting the strike. Women have been the driving force behind most successful social movements. Luckily, the future is female. Micro-actions integrated into our daily lives can spread a protest’s message throughout all the networks and circuits of our society and reach people who might never hear about a protest at Queen’s Park or City Hall.
- Put up a poster on your front lawn, in the elevator or on the wall of your cubicle.
- Share news about the protests with your colleagues and ask for their opinions.
- Call your MP or MPP during your lunch break to express support for the strike.
- Find like-minded people in your workplace and approach your manager together. You might say something like “Climate change is an important topic and we want to support these brave young people, but we also know that the work we’re doing is important, especially with such-and-such deadline on the horizon. Rather than taking a day off to join the protest, we would like to organize a short lunch-and-learn about climate change on December 7.”
If you do decide to organize an event in your workplace, consider using our pledge sheets or online pledge interface to turn your coworkers’ interest into concrete reductions and specific political actions. You might also want to direct them towards larger climate organizations like Act350 or the Climate Mobilization.
For info on the Climatestrike in Sudbury:
follow @SophiaMathur on twitter or sign-up at this website: https://www.liveablesudbury.org/fridays_for_a_future .
For info on the Climatestrike in Toronto:
check out this facebook event or just show up at Queen’s Park between 12 pm and 2 pm on December 7.
Update #fridaysforfuture Toronto is growing! The next major event will be Feb.1 from 12:30 until 2:00. And Instagram (@fridays4futuretoronto) and twitter (@toclimatefuture) accounts are up and running.