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‘What’s the plan?’

Gazette student columnist adds voice to global climate strike

Student Life | Student View

By Emma Troake

An estimated 4,000 students, adults and children seized and overflowed the eastbound traffic lane on Prince Phillip Drive in St. John’s on Friday, Sept. 27.

I was one of them.

Last year I participated in the first Fridays for Future-St. John’s strike as a high-school student.

Feeling the same pride as I did that chilly March day when I chanted in the crowd of students with neon signs while wielding my own, this time I was ecstatic to discover that the number I’d seen last year had quadrupled.

Running up the sidelines, snapping shots of creative posters and shouting protestors, I kept turning around to gaze in awe (as many others were) at the lengthy train stretching all the way down the large hill.

Those in the caboose, still all the way down by Memorial University, shrunk to specks.

As we ascended upon the Confederation Building, I felt not only pride, but privilege. It’s important to recognize that, especially as a woman, how lucky I and others are that our predecessors fought for our right to speech, freedom and the ability to even protest today.

Student protesters on the steps of Confederation Building.
Photo: Emma Troake

I feel a great responsibility to previous generations to use the voice I’ve been given, and to use it as a part of something so massive, so worldwide, feels incredibly empowering.

Of course, there’s the feeling of responsibility to the future generations, as well.

The stakes are daunting, as action towards creating a more sustainable, healthy planet will literally determine the future of those who come after us.

Relating to this, the most notable moment of the strike for me was when an emergency siren sound effect unexpectedly blared through the sound system, followed by several students slowly walking up the building’s stairs carrying a (fake) black coffin.

When they set it down facing the crowd, you could see a message painted on the inside. The words, “OUR FUTURE,” combined with the frightening alarm struck a chord in me.

The coffin on Confederation hill.
Photo: Emma Troake

Fearful images of raging superstorms or nuclear war decimating our world flashed through my mind. The idea that this sound could become a familiar one in the lives of upcoming generations or perhaps not too far away in our own futures truly put into perspective how pivotal these next few years will be.

When the siren finally ceased, Memorial University student Hannah Baker delivered a speech from the point of view of human-kind—but after it’s too late; a eulogy of sorts for Mother Nature, consisting of all the details on how we collectively failed to save her.

It was powerful and will forever linger in my mind as the fight for change continues.

A sea of protesters on Sept. 27.
Photo: Emma Troake

The strike was well organized with numerous speeches from the Fridays for Future-St. John’s group, speakers from Memorial University and numerous local politicians. Most of the politicians’ speeches were complimentary and praised what we students were doing.

Only a few of the speakers proposed actual plans, such as Green Party candidate Greg Malone who stated: “We propose in the platform of Green Government of Canada—would ban the sale of internal combustion engines by 2030 in this country.”

From certain speakers, however, came few details of a structured climate action plan and useless statements such as “let’s not wait any longer” and “demand action now,” regardless of the fact that demanding action is precisely what our hefty group of over 4,000 were doing.

“It gives me hope for the future and unrelenting determination for action.”

At one point, almost all of those 4,000 were chanting the words: “What’s the plan?” Our leaders’ previous failures toward action hung low in the air, buzzing in our minds.

This strike was undeniably one for the books. Joining the global team and standing together in unity, demanding action for our planet was inspiring and moving. It gives me hope for the future and unrelenting determination for action.

“This can be very daunting at first seeing everyone protesting, and saying ‘no gas, no oil,’ but you can start really simply in your own house,” Hannah Baker expressed.

“Its really simple to start to get the ball rolling and then once you feel comfortable, you know, you can get it going, and the more people who do that, who do small things, the better impact we’ll make.”

I, for one, look forward to continue making our impact.

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