Students Front and Centre at Recent Peterborough Climate Rally

CHERYL LYON – Fear over a searing, blighted future and a determination to take action brought Peterborough high school students Sunny Woodcroft, Nora McLean and Ruby Leishman to the Climate Rally across from City Hall on an unseasonably hot Friday this past September 15th. They were among some 200 protesters of all ages waving posters and chanting, as rally leaders spoke truth to power during what has become an annual event, now resuming post-Covid.

The three students are members of teacher Cam Douglas’s Youth Leadership in Sustainability (YLS) Program, designed to prepare those in Grades 11 and 12 for future initiatives in sustainability. A class spare allowed them to attend the rally, which carries on Greta Thunberg’s “Fridays for Future” tradition, begun in August of 2018.

Like Thunberg, they believe little time remains for the children and grandchildren of the Boomer Generation to escape the dire effects of the fossil-fuel-generated global warming that is beginning to affect us all.

“The more people who show up,” the students agreed, “the more we can show those in power that we care and need change. When we lie in bed at night, we worry about bringing kids into a world like this.” Their friends, they added, agree with them on the urgency of addressing the unprecedented climate crisis.

Are they worried about their individual futures? “Yes. 100%.” Ruby wants to go into engineering to build sustainable technology into space exploration. From her experience in YLS, Nora is thinking about Environmental Science to support the climate cause.
Though their career paths may differ, all three are appealing now to those in power for immediate action. “They need to realize that the longer they wait, the harder it is to fix. As for the rest of us, individual actions like recycling will only go so far.” Throughout the afternoon, the need for real systemic change came through loud and clear.

And local politicians? Last year the students met with current mayor Jeff Leal. “He talked about changes made and changes coming, but politicians like to think they are doing a lot more than they actually do.” That includes local transit. Those in power could make it easier for all riders by creating a public system that gets people out of their cars and onto more climate-friendly paths.

But it’s not just about public transit. The broader climate crisis discourse, the students noted, often pits their anger as young people against leaders over a certain age – especially politicians whose decisions have led to the disastrous state of the Earth. Several speakers agreed with the students about the role of past generations and the need for them to step up. One called upon governments to “stop taking baby steps to keep this planet alive while we are still here.”

Speaker Kaley Perera compared the state of the planet to that of the homeowner who builds a fine new house and then lets it fall into disrepair with roots clogging pipes and cabinetry rotting. In the absence of rapid and sweeping changes, one dire catastrophe looms: wildfires, floods, extreme weather events, and rising oceans will sweep away what’s left of that fine new house.

Students Front and Centre at Recent Peterborough Climate Rally © 2023 by Cheryl Lyon in the Greenzine is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 

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