I believe it is safe to say that the current youth protest movement for the environment is well known. Perhaps the reasons behind this are big business or corrupt governments. Truthfully I think the masses are paying attention because this time they are children. Although for how long? What concrete impact will this have to halt climate change?
Seeing the waves of marchers from around the globe has sparked some intense memories. Many years ago during my university days in Canada any time there was a summit or dispute individuals and groups would gather. Often times in what is called solidarity. For example if the teachers were striking others would join such as student groups, union reps from industry and concerned citizens. At the time we had a right to gather and march to voice our opinions, peacefully, of course.
Those of us involved felt we were making a difference. Often times with sheer numbers giving a voice to an unheard or underprivileged cause. I marched for environmental rights primarily, but being a student I was an active participant for any cause related to education. I lent my body to add numbers to many protests from Palestinian rights to nurses’ plights. I marched for indigenous peoples in South America long before the Amazon was set ablaze as it is now. This was over 20 years ago.
Then the tides turned on us. The press began to misrepresent numbers; downplaying thousands gathered to mere hundreds of dissidents taking to the streets illegally. Please understand, we as protesters had not changed, the rules had. Our right to gather in numbers in Canada was limited. A planned route along with a police escort was required. Problem is that unless a protest causes a peaceful disturbance to the day-to-day of ordinary people no one cares!! I was a dedicated peaceful participant, I was trained as a medic to keep everyone safe. When the riot police started to make the first violent moves to instigated to rilled up crowds I knew it had all gone wrong. ( As a side note the following image is of 35mm film strips I took in Quebec City during the anti-Globalization Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) Protests, April 2001 in Quebec. The masses condemned the the violence, but were tear gases anyways. I was exposed to so much gas the film itself bubbled and warped.)
What started as a young adults dream of hope came crashing down in a cloud of tear gas and a shower of rubber bullets. My actions became home based. Buying local and organic, taking public transport and repurposing clothing. Speaking out and spreading evidence. Signing petitions and voting. At the time I felt I was doing a lot for the planet. Now I know it was not enough.
We live in a world of words and false promises. Voicing our concerns and support means nothing unless behind the scenes there is action! My family and I of 3 have made extreme choices. Not that we are guilt free. We still car pool in gas powered vehicles, heck I’m planning a plane trip to Lima in the near future. We buy certain items wrapped in plastic. But our daily lives are spent in harmony with the planet. We are off-grid, we compost our waste; we grow some of our own food; we harvest rainwater. My homeschooled daughter is a medicinal plant aficionado. Our donkey Ben brings home the groceries along with the girl on his back. We manage our our garbage disposal and we reuse everything we possibly can. Anything that can be fixed we fix, what we buy we seek the best quality so as to consume less. We plant trees, and then we plant more trees. We make natural products and remedies that barely allow us to buy our basic needs. We struggle and feel alone most of the time.
My little child is only 4 years old. She knows that natural medicine is better. She knows that cutting down the forests is wrong. She knows that replacing something real with a fake is bewildering and stupid. Of course she has been influenced in a certain way but she has her own thoughts and deep feelings. She has always cried when a tree is cut, long before she caught on to politics and opinions. I try to shelter her from the horror. But she lives in the Amazon and every day we hear it being cut—we see and smell it burning down.
What I want for myself and for all those babies hitting the streets, the eco-warriors, the indigenous peoples defending their homes is for you to be INSPIRED. I want the simple things like recycling and hybrid cars, reducing consumption and buying organic to be normal. I dream of a time when these actions are seen as more than an effort to be green. Those things are a start but do not be blind to think it is enough! Be active in systemic change. Listen to the children before their marches become common place. Demand that governments make HUGE CHANGES. Give yourself some reasons to spark intense memories for your own future. Today is the day, tomorrow is too late.💜