A largely student organized demonstration in City Park drew a crowd of roughly 100 on Wednesday afternoon.
The live-streamed event led by a number of Queen’s students and 350 Kingston calls on politicians gearing up for the federal election to make climate change a priority, demanding emergency-level action.
The rally had a focus on the need for political action on climate change, encouraging attendees to post on social media with the hashtags #CanadaIsOnFire, #JustTransitionNow and #ClimateChangeIsReal, and to tag local politicians.
The event joined a number of 350 Canada demonstrations throughout the country, with speakers noting the timing being important with Western Canada’s rampant wildfire situation and a pending federal election.
Vic Sahai of the NDP party was the sole local MP candidate at the rally, and said he feels presence at events like this are important for demonstrating that climate change is an important issue and motivating others to act.
Sahai says we need to transition from an oil based economy to a green economy, and says we are in a perfect position to do so as we attempt to recover from the pandemic.
He says that Kingston as an education hub could could be a leader in the transition.
“Queen’s University could become a centre of excellence for green research,” Sahai noted.
“St. Lawrence College could be one of those colleges that we gear up to transition oil workers into the green economy.”
No other local MPs were present in person, although the Green Party did send official representatives.
Stephanie Sherman, a Queen’s student and organizer of the event, said young people can often feel powerless and overwhelmed by climate anxiety.
She says an event like this allows everyone to demonstrate the importance of the issue.
“When stuff comes up or we see the news we just shut down, we don’t want to talk about it but that’s the exact opposite thing we need to do,” Sherman said.
“When an event like this shows up people just jump to it. People are feeling the heat, they’re feeling the effects of climate change.”
She added that individuals can vote and demonstrate that they care about climate change, but the issue is one that cannot be solved on an individual level, but instead federally and globally.
Kyla Tienhaara, Assistant Professor in the School of Environmental Studies and the Department of Global Development Studies at Queen’s University, referenced a report by Indigenous Environmental Network and Oil Change International that suggests 25% of North American carbon emissions have been delayed or stopped by the action of Indigenous people.
Both she and Sherman noted in their speeches that the Indigenous community pulls more than its’ weight in addressing climate change, and that climate action can also be an important step in reconciliation.
Tienhaara also asserted that climate change is an issue that needs to be solved with equity, and that it is directly tied to social issues.
She says research indicates a shorter work week would have a positive impact on emissions.
The decrease in commuting and energy used at office buildings is an obvious impact, but Tienhaara adds that a shorter work week could allow people more time and energy to live in an ecologically sustainable way.
“I know personally when I’m really stretched for time I’m more likely to get pre package food and people are more likely to drive places rather than walk or cycle,” Tienhaara said.
“Even if this isn’t something that’s going to make the biggest emissions reduction it’s about changing our focus from GDP growth being everything to being about a well-being economy where people are happier even if they’re not living a high carbon lifestyle.”
Tienhaara and organizers encouraged the crowd to show up and vote on September 20.
There will be a Global Climate Strike on September 24.