NEW GLASGOW — Slogans like “The sea levels are rising; so are we!”shared verbally and on posters said it all as more than 200 people gathered for a climate change rally last Friday at Carmichael Park.
Northumberland Regional High School student Keeley Shipley emceed the rally at the park’s gazebo and was among the many young people who addressed the gathering. Shipley said the crowd in New Glasgow was larger than she expected.
“I am one of the ambassadors behind Pictou County Fridays for Future,” she said.
She saluted Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old girl from Sweden, and described the international youth-led movement Thunberg started.
“About a year ago she started striking every Friday outside of the Swedish parliament until they would acknowledge the climate crisis we are facing and start to act for it,” Shipley said. “Her movement became viral and soon more and more people started to join in, and just last Friday it’s estimated that nearly four million people around the world took to the streets to stand up for climate justice.”
Shipley referred to Emma Lee, a McGill University student who has pledged not to have children in the foreseeable future.
“Just like all of us here today she is passionate about our environment but she’s afraid, too,” Shipley said. “So what Emma did was start a pledge and this pledge states: ‘I pledge not to have children until I am sure my government will ensure a safe future for them.’”
Rachel Mitchell, climate adaptation director for the Town of New Glasgow, praised the young people leading the charge.
“We’ve known about climate change for decades,” she said, while lauding Thunberg’s work. “It speaks to the power of one.”
Chief Andrea Paul of the Pictou Landing First Nation also addressed the gathering.
“If we don’t care about the environment, the environment won’t care about us,” she said. “We need to be the change. We need to be the difference.”
Student Hannah Fleury implored governments to act now on climate change and stop marking time.
“In 2050, will I have to say ‘I was alive when there used be whales in the ocean … birds in the sky … coral reefs big enough to be seen from space,” she said. “These are worth fighting for. Mother Earth is worth fighting for. The human race is worth fighting for. Let’s get to work.”
Three Central Nova candidates attended the rally: Green candidate Barry Randle, Liberal incumbent Sean Fraser and NDP candidate Betsy MacDonald, who all attended a similar rally earlier on Friday in Antigonish.
“It was just awesome,” said Randle, noting the more than 300 who attended and how they let university students from the Bahamas lead the march in support of the island nation’s recovery from the destruction caused by hurricane Dorian.
“Nobody listened. Now look at how many people are listening,” Randle said. “What you are doing here is inspiring. We knew about (climate change) 30 years ago. We should have done more and we’re sorry.”
Fraser said only overwhelming public resolve can help governments reverse climate change.
“We do not have much time,” he said. “It’s going to be citizen-driven.”
Later, during the march, Fraser added: “There’s nothing like social action. It’s the best vitamin there is.”
MacDonald asked the gathering to follow up on Friday’s event and affect real change.
“Now is the time for Canadians to come together,” she said. “There is no second chance.”
River John resident Barb Harris warned those present to hold governments to a promise to not allow hydraulic fracturing or fracking in Nova Scotia to reduce emissions.
“Coal to natural gas is not the answer,” she said. “Coal to renewable energy is the answer.”
Student Seamus Fanning reflected on what he could have done sooner.
“If I knew a long time ago I would have started a long time ago, but at least we’re starting,” he said.
Seamus Fanning, left, and Hannah Fleury hold a poster with the now popular slogan: There is no Planet B, during the Fridays for Future climate crisis rally in New Glasgow. (Goodwin photo)