Inaction is no longer an option. Discouraging young climate strikers means ignoring the very real threat that the climate crisis poses to our future.
On the morning of Friday, March 15, my friends and I made our way to our university’s café to begin painting signs and banners. We were joined by fellow organizers from every school in our small town of Sackville, some as young as five or six, some in their final years of university. We would not be going to class: we were on strike. We had chosen to join over a million other students around the world in raising our voices and demanding action on the climate crisis from our politicians and leaders. We weren’t sure how many people would join us; we were hoping for 40, maybe 50. By the time our crowd of strikers began marching to town hall, however, we had been joined by over 200 of our peers and supporters. Young people are scared right now. My friends and I often talk about climate anxiety; how the future is no longer a place of hope and wonder for us, but a place of paralyzing dread. We’re also furiously angry, because although all credible science is telling us that we still have a brief window of time to salvage a livable planet, those with the power to do so are prioritizing their own pocketbooks and petty fiefdoms of power over the future of the human race.
Critics of the school strikes for climate are legion. This number includes (of course) the usual lineup of cynical politicians and pundits who have built careers by claiming that nothing is wrong, but also, disappointingly, many adults that we have been raised to believe should have our backs right now. Many of our school administrators, teachers, and parents, the very individuals who taught us the importance of speaking out for what we believe in, now tell us that our behaviour is inappropriate. That we should, as students, focus on our education, stay in class, get our diplomas and degrees, and then begin trying to change policy and technology. This outlook is, frankly, insulting. Of course education is important to us; in fact, striking students are the only ones who seem to be taking education seriously right now! It is precisely through our classes, lectures, and lessons that we have learned that a crisis is brewing, and that our policy-makers, legislators, and administrators are utterly failing to make the changes necessary to ensure our future security. We strike because we have learned about the trajectory that our species is on, and because we have learned that inaction is no longer optional. We do not have time to sit in classrooms and in lecture halls and patiently wait to be permitted to save the world; we need to rise up, and demand that our knowledge be turned into action.
At this point in my life, and the life of our church, and the life of this planet, I cannot stop thinking about the story of Jesus and the moneychangers in the Temple of Jerusalem. I think of Christ standing on that holy ground, and watching as, all around him, reverence and respect for the sacred were cast aside in favour of profit and avarice. We as Christians and as a church are standing today in the same position in which Christ found himself two thousand years ago. This time, however, it's not pigeons or oxen that are being bartered off for a quick buck: it's the future. It's me. It's my sister. It's my friends. It's every single person alive today or who will be born tomorrow that we know will live to experience the climate meltdown that we are generating right now. As far as I'm concerned, we as students, we as a church, and we as a species, have no choice but to do as Christ has taught us, and start flipping some tables.
—Aidan Legault is a member of St. Peter’s United Church in Sudbury, Ontario. He currently works as a Youth Program Coordinator with The GO Project, a ministry of Islington United Church (Toronto, ON) that runs nationwide summer programming aimed at empowering children, youth, and young adults to faithfully work towards meaningful change in their communities. He will be starting his M.Div. at Emmanuel College this fall.