Today, on World Environment Day, I wanted to write about my experience taking part in the most recent Toronto "School Strike for Climate" march. It was held, coincidentally, on Friday, May 24, the 4th anniversary of the promulgation of Pope Francis’ environmental encyclical Laudato Si’. The aim of this global movement of students skipping school and marching in peaceful protest is to place political pressure on elected officials to legislate steps towards climate and environmental justice, like decreased reliance on fossil fuels, stricter environmental regulations on industry, etc.
As I walked alongside this passionate and dedicated mass of people, I couldn't help but feel the power that collective action can have. What we can each do is small, but together, we can do so much. As the saying often attributed to St. Mother Teresa of Kolkata goes,
We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop.
Globally, 1600 marches took place on that day in over 125 countries. Estimates say the number of participants was above 1.6 million. To give you some sense of the scale of this one-day effort, that's approximately the number of people who live in Phoenix, Arizonia, or the entire population of the country of Bahrain!
This current wave of youth environmental activism was sparked by Swedish teen Greta Thunburg. In August of 2018, Greta was in the 9th grade. Ahead of the Swedish parliamentary elections, she decided to stand outside Swedish parliament every Friday with a sign reading “School Strike for Climate”. She has said her inspiration came from activist students in the wake of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shootings in Parkland, Florida.
When asked why she would skip school, Greta said,
“Why should I be studying for a future that soon may be no more, when no one is doing anything to save that future? And what is the point of learning facts when the most important facts [of climate change] clearly mean nothing to our society?”
Many of the students at the strike – along with those of all ages who marched by their side – heartily agreed with that sentiment.
Click on the video at the top of the blog to watch a short video of what the experience was like, from gathering in Nathan Phillips Square to walking down a lane of Bay Street specially blocked off for the march. I’ve also included a video (below) of Greta Thunburg interviewed by Global Catholic Climate Movement about meeting Pope Francis. She says the Pope encouraged her and youth around the world to continue advocating for better care of our common home.
If you too are passionate about caring for our common home, here are some further resources on Laudato Si’ and the Catholic approach to environmental justice:
Creation shows that dealing with environmental issues by focusing on political, economic, or ideological solutions alone is noble, but lacking. Learn more about 'Creation' here as we celebrate Earth D ...read more
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