On Friday, September 27th, environmental activists organized a massive climate march led by none other than  the teenage Swedish activist Greta Thunberg. Half a million people rallied for the cause to make a statement that it is time to act on the climate emergency. Simultaneous marches occurred in hundreds of cities, attracting 6 million people all over the planet.

According to Canada’s most eminent environmentalist David Suzuki, Greta has achieved what no other scientist or activist has. She has united the entire planet to demand that politicians act before it is too late.

Suzuki also wrote this about her recently:

“The Swedish teen Greta Thunberg has become an inspiration to millions of people. But what I personally love about her is the way she highlights that moment between thinking and putting her being into motion. I appreciate her reliance on scientific evidence, her unique and direct form of communicating and simplifying complex issues as well as the way she models a low-carbon lifestyle.

But it’s the image of Greta, who at the age of 15 painted a sign and walked to the Swedish parliament to sit alone in an effort to raise awareness about climate change, that swells my heart. It captures a moment of turning fear for the future into physical action.”

On the morning of the March, Greta was greeted in a ceremony by the leaders of the Assembly of First Nations. Alongside them were representatives of the various environmental groups who organized the march such as La Planète s’invite au Parlement, La Planète s’invite en Santé, La Planète s’invite dans le Communautaire, Fridays for Future, Pacte pour la Transition, Greenpeace, David Suzuki Foundation.

She was given the key to the city by Mayor Valerie Plante, who had arranged for public transport to be free all day to encourage everyone to not travel by car. 150,000 students participated, as did seven unions and over four hundred community organizations. Later Greta met privately with Prime Minister Trudeau. She sternly warned him that half measures are no longer acceptable. We are facing mass extinction. No more excuses and pipelines, it’s time to act.

During the march, Trudeau was greeted with choruses of boos. A local activist tried to throw eggs at him before being tackled and arrested by the RCMP. When these types of incidents occur, the media is quick to get a statement from the powers that be but never bother to ask the protester WHY they did it. I tracked down the activist Dexter X from the organization Rest2Resist to understand their reasoning behind this act of civil disobedience.

They told me that they achieved their goal of denying Trudeau a hypocritical photo op cozying up to the protesters. For the rest of the climate march, Trudeau was surrounded by a stern phalanx of bodyguards. Any photos taken would portray him as the authority figure he is, in stark contrast to the climate friendly image Trudeau wished to project. Dexter said:

“I’m accused of obstruction, aggravated assault & assault with a weapon. Violence is a poor word to describe our resistance to ecocide. On June 18, Trudeau declared a national climate emergency. The next day, he approved the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion (TMX), meant to move 600,000 barrels per day of the dirtiest oil in the world. These reserves need to stay in the ground if Canada is to stay within its carbon budget to avoid the catastrophic two degrees of warming. Canada’s economy relies on the plundering of Indigenous lands. Trudeau is imprisoning Land Defenders & Water Protectors like the Tsleil-Waututh Nation who are opposing pipelines in their territories. Climate leaders don’t build pipelines.”

The rest of the march occurred without incident. Half a million people marched with their signs and costumes. Percussion troupes and their dancers kept the crowd moving. The mood ranged from festive to outraged. People of all ages marched. Groups of students from primary to university often wore matching outfits. Protest signs ranged from angry to humorous to crude. Chants rose and fell. Overall the mood was jubilant, the people inspired and united.

Upon arrival to the stage at the end of the parade, we were given a treat. A super group of Patrick Watson, The Barr Brothers and members of Arcade Fire performed. Patrick’s anthem “To Build a Home” was the highlight, the lyrics perfectly fitting the message of the climate march.

A series of speeches ensued by the organizers of the strike. They were enthusiastically cheered for all their hard work and this massive achievement. The stage was set for Greta Thunberg to emerge and give a speech. The crowd erupted and she was visibly moved. Once again she gave a powerful speech, blunt and to the point.

“You are a nation that is allegedly a climate leader; Sweden is also allegedly a climate leader,” she says. “In both cases, it means absolutely nothing. In both cases, it’s just empty words.”

Her message remained consistent:  Listen to science. Judge politicians by their actions, not their words. If we all work together, we can avoid extinction. Many members of the crowd were moved to tears. It was a defining moment, where the people drew a line in the sand to shout “NO MORE”.

The jubilant mood was somewhat marred by radio stations and their enormous sound systems along the route. Ignoring the spirit of the march, they blared banal corporate pop and the obnoxious ads for their sponsors at an insanely high volume. Which often drowned out the musical performances and Greta’s speech.

In conclusion, I make no claim to being an experienced environmentalist. But we all want to make a difference. So stay tuned for the next edition in this series on Climate Change where I will interview some prominent environmentalists and activists. I will pick their brains for advice about exactly WHAT can do to reduce our impact environmentally while maximizing our impact politically.

Stilt walkers getting noticed at the MTL Climate March

Clever signs at the Mtl Climate March

Activists at the Montreal Climate March Original signs making an impact at the MTL Climate march

Another climate march is in order. Check out the creative and wild ways through the WildX event.