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Joining the global strike movement

Elmira joined in on the Global Climate Strike last Friday that started at EDSS and proceeded to the Woolwich Township Hall led by event organizer Justin Hachman (right), along with local residents Jared Redekop and Monika Pieper Landoni. [Aneta Rebiszewski / The Observer]

The global climate-strike movement that’s seen youth-led protests, including student walkouts, around the world found some traction in Elmira last week. The Friday launch of climate strike week (September 20-27) coincided with a PD day, however, somewhat muting the impact of a march that started at EDSS.

Still, Elmira did its part with an event organized by local resident Justin Hachman.

“I think in history we’re going to look back at this time where we did nothing, and be, like, ‘we could’ve done something.’ And I don’t want to know that I didn’t do something,” Hachman said of what prompted him to organize the protest in the town he grew up in.

There are different reasons as to why people came to join in on this protest, but for Hachman this was something he’s been advocating for years after graduating from high school and having the chance to travel around the world. Spending some time on the West Coast, home to virgin rainforests and clear-cut mountainsides, was a particular eye-opener, he said.

 “Seeing other places opened up my eyes. Going out west and seeing the beauty of the old forests where you can see the stars – it’s more visual there.”

For others, simply creating awareness was the main reason for coming out to the event. Jared Redekop flew in from Winnipeg to see family, but stopped by Elmira District Secondary School, where the protest march began, to join in on the action.

An Elmira native, Redekop said taking part in the local protest was a way to his part for the cause, pointing to the inspiration of Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old Swedish environmental activist who has become the face of the youth movement.

“We needed a fire starter and Greta Thunberg has really been that. Anything to bring about awareness is what I want to be a part of,” he said.

The turnout was small due to coinciding with a  PD day that prevented many high school students from joining in on the strike. Despite the small numbers, Hachman picked up his climate strike signs and walked down the main street to the Woolwich Township administrative building, where the protest would take place for the remainder of the day.

Monika Pieper Landoni, who called herself an aging hippy, came out on September 20 to show her support for the environment in the community where she lives in.

“Everybody’s way too comfortable,” she said, noting actual change is going to take more than just a strike. “We need a radical shift – most of us are going to go kicking and screaming when were forced to. We still have the mentality ‘it’s not quite in our backyard.’”

The strikes were started last year by Thunberg in response to her fear of climate change’s impact if no action is taken. This led to the student strikes that now take place in communities all over the world, including all across Canada. Every Friday, students from different schools have been leaving the classroom to join in on the action. More than 150 countries have been reported to already take action in the world-wide strike.

The goal of the strikes is to draw attention to the issue, prompting action such as has been the case with the thousand municipalities in 19 countries that have declared climate emergencies, according to The Climate Mobilization network.

Last week’s protest in Elmira got the attention of Woolwich Mayor Sandy Shantz, who spoke with those involved outside the township office. Pointing to the flooding of Arthur Street in Elmira two years ago – an unusual environmental event for the area – she said there are measurable impacts of climate change in the community.

She noted the Region of Waterloo and its municipalities are committed to an 80 per cent reduction in carbon emissions by 2050.

“We can’t do it alone. Elmira is not going to change the world but we all need to do a piece and together we’ll make a change,” said Shantz.

The September 20 strikes such as the one in Elmira helped launch a global week of activities. For tomorrow (Friday), people around the world are being asked to join in on a general strike that is organized by the grassroots movement Earth Strike. More information can be found online.

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