Climate Strike Week Will Urge Waterloo Region into Action

According to the Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change (IPCC) report from Fall 2018, we have until 2030 to drastically reduce our carbon footprint before we see irreversible damage to our planet. 

In April 2019, Canada’s Changing Climate Report indicated that Canada’s arctic is warming twice as fast as the rest of the world. And most recently, Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research has reported that the Amazon, often referred to as the planet’s lungs, is burning at a record rate than ever before.

We’ve read about this. We know what’s happening. But what’s being done about it?

“We’ve been hearing from climate scientists and experts for three decades. Honestly it’s embarrassing how long we’ve known about this,” Kai Reimer-Watts, a local activist and PhD student in Community Psychology at Wilfrid Laurier University said.

“And yet our emissions continue to rise. We are literally undermining a support system that’s critical to all life. We’ve got very real impacts that should matter to us, like food security.”

Reimer-Watts, along with other local activists is partaking in Climate Strike WR, a week-long strike happening Sept. 20 – 27. The strike is in solidarity with the Global Climate Strike, a collective movement around the world where cities take part in demanding climate justice for a consecutive week. 

“It’s about creating that collective ‘aha’ moment that shakes up this sense of normalcy,” Reimer-Watts said. “It reminds us that it’s not. We are living in a crisis situation right now and we need to treat it like an urgent situation. I think Greta Thunberg put it so well when she said, ‘we have to act as if our house is on fire.’ If your house is on fire you would no longer just sit around and ignore it. You would change your priorities. You would really start getting engaged.”

While many interactive events will be taking place during the week, the main strike will take place Sept. 27 at Waterloo Town Square from 11:30 a.m. – 2 p.m, which will feature pledging booths, rallies and an Indigenous ceremony. 

“I think starting our strike with Indigenous leadership welcome, and not just having them as a tokens, is deeply important to me,” said Megan Ruttan, climate lobbyist, activist, and co-organizer of Climate Strike WR.

“We really need to take the leadership from Indigenous people and marginalized people for climate action. We can’t just [solve] this if we don’t recognize proper stewardship of the land … we really need to think about colonialism and racism and recognize that those are the problems behind climate crises in a so many ways.”

Ruttan hopes that the strike will inspire a new mobility of grassroots activism for climate change.

“I feel like our leaders are failing us in a really big way … I think they’re too dedicated to the world that it is right now — the one that we’re currently causing to hurdle towards the cliff’s edge … I want to inspire other climate leaders and other people to speak out on the subject,” Ruttan said.

A faith-based event will also take place Sept. 26 from 3 p.m.- 9 p.m. at St. Mary’s Church, which will feature panels and a questions and answers session.

“The reason we’re doing this event is just because faith communities have the potential to be tremendously influential,” said Laura Hamilton, organizer of the event.

“It’s not just a moral obligation, it’s a moral opportunity. Everything has to change. People who seek justice in their lives have this opportunity to jump in with both feet and make a positive change.”

Reimer-Watts’  2017 documentary Beyond Crisis, a film that focuses on hope for a greener world, will also be screening during the week. According to Reimer-Watts, the documentary was a grassroots effort that was used to encourage governments of all levels to make policies that combat climate change. 

There will also be an interactive mural installation during the week, called Climate is Life, which will take place on Laurier campus, near Veritas Café. The 15 x 9 foot mural is designed by local artist Pamela Rojas and will be permanently installed on the campus as a reminder of what is possible if there is a collective mobility in combatting climate change. Participants are welcomed to join Rojas in completing a portion of the mural.

“It’s a really celebratory message,” Reimer-Watts said, who is also the organizer of the event. “Its about celebrating this beautiful Earth system that is responsible for all of our weather, that plays a big role in the food we eat and the water we drink and just makes life possible. The other message in the mural is really about that community engagement piece. It’s what we’re trying to achieve and overcome.”

Both Reimer-Watts and Ruttan believe that while Climate Strike Week is important to raise awareness and spread knowledge, it’s also important to take more urgent and consistent action in order to properly combat this serious global epidemic.

“I have a five-year-old son and I’m not taking this crap lying down,” Ruttan said. “Just because we’re privileged does not mean [these major problems like food insecurity] are not going to come down to us.”

“From the action will come hope,” Reimer-Watts said.

“If we look at what young people around the world have managed to achieve in changing the discourse and making this a central issue just over the last year, that’s incredible. I think the message to adults is really loud and clear. They need our support. They need our action. It’s adults who still hold the weight of power and responsibility in our world, and they’re making decisions right now that will determine the kind of future young people today are going to live in. The days for gradual change are far behind us.”