On Sept. 8, Waterloo Region community members and organizers held a rally for climate action in the Waterloo Town Square. After hearing from speakers including Amy Smoke and Maddie Resmer from the Land Back Camp, attendees helped paint a mural designed by local artist Pamela Rojas.
Kai Reimer-Watts is one of the original organizers for 50by30, a group that advocates reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 50 per cent by 2030, the group that organized this rally. He said the rally was meant to draw politicians’ attention to both the climate crisis and to the fact that citizens are concerned and demanding climate action.
“An election has been called in the midst of a pandemic, a climate emergency, fires burning across the country and we really urgently need to draw attention for all of our political leaders as well as society at large that the time for action on climate change is now. It can’t wait,” he said. “With a potential change in federal government, it’s more important than ever for a wealthy, privileged country like ours to be leading on this issue and leading a just transition to a more sustainable society that leaves nobody behind. So we’re here to say climate change is an accelerating crisis…and we need to protect people and begin a transition to a future where we’re not just going from one crisis to the next.”
The Region of Waterloo and its seven area municipalities have all endorsed the 50by30 goal. Reimer-Watts said that the solutions should be led by the communities that are most impacted by climate change and no one should be left behind in our journey to a more sustainable society.
“[T]hese are also often people who have done the least to contribute to the crisis…As we’re looking towards a transition which involves change, we need to make sure that the solutions prioritize community wellbeing and particularly folks who are on the frontlines of this crisis,” Reimer-Watts said. “Solutions [should be] led by communities that are impacted so that their wellbeing is taken into account and they are some of the first to benefit from a clean economy.”
Altay Coskun, a classical studies professor at the University of Waterloo, also attended the rally. He recently joined a climate action group on campus and has become increasingly involved in community events, but does not think of himself as an activist.
Coskun said that, regardless of academic background, everyone should be concerned with the climate crisis. It is his role as a father that motivates him to attend these events, make changes in his life, and be a model for his children.
“No matter what my background is, I sense that this world is falling apart! I have a family, I have four children and I want this place to be liveable for them. I am not a political activist, I’ve never been…but we need to be bolder, we need to move forward because it is really time to act now,” he said.
Coskun said people need to take small steps of their own and demand bolder actions from their leaders and politicians. It is important that regular people continue to make their demands be known and not wait for politicians to make decisions before reacting to them. It is also important to continue spreading the climate justice movement.
“I asked my wife, my oldest daughter, my best friend to join and I think that’s also the strategy that we need for promoting our agendas; we need to talk to people close to us and then go the next step, go the next step, make the movement always larger and larger so we cannot be [overlooked] by the politicians in power,” Coskun said. “We shouldn’t wait until the politicians make their choices, their decisions, or not, we have to do our little steps every single day…But I do think that the many, many little steps have to be there to back up the bold demands with which we approach our politicians because they do not seem to take us seriously.”
“We have to show them that we mean it, we want change now,” Coskun said.