Friday, 27 September 2019

Toronto Climate Strike

Today I took part in the Toronto Climate Strike (though I took a half a vacation day to go, so I don't suppose it meets the criteria of a strike). We met at Queen's Park for an hour and a half of speeches we couldn't hear very well, though I liked the native drumming and singing. The march itself was very late in starting, and after standing for so long I started getting antsy. And noticed some people were just heading off to march anyway, without waiting for the "Go." I hesitated, and then I saw a placard one person was carrying that said, "Actions not Words," and that was enough to set me off walking.

I have to say, it was a moving experience (no pun intended!). Halfway through the walk, I stopped at the corner of Bay and Dundas and just watched the stream of people going by. I felt like a witness to something amazing. Toronto is truly a microcosm of the world. People of all races and nationalities, all religions and orientations, all ages from babes in arms to white-haired grandparents. A Jewish group blowing the shofar. A collection of "uprooted" people -- refugees to this country. Trans people marching with collared priests and a Tibetan woman in traditional dress, a Sufi mystic, Sikhs, First Nations...everyone was represented. People brought babies, dogs, even a goat. Protest signs in multiple languages.

I was flowing along quite happily, and then I saw a shirtless man walking barefoot down Bay Street, and I suddenly realized I was crying. It's Toronto. It's almost October. He shouldn't be able to do that! Why is it 30 degrees Celsius and I'm thinking I need sunscreen and everyone around me was in shorts and sleeveless shirts? Climate change doubters, I rest my case. This isn't normal!

The signs and slogans I found fascinating in their fervency and variety. They ranged from clever to simple:

  • Leo DiCaprio's girlfriends deserve a future too
  • Hugs for Bugs
  • I'm skipping my lesson so I can teach you one
  • Why study when I won't have a future anyway?
  • Keep it in the Ground
  • Planet over Profit
  • What good is your money on a dead planet?
  • The wrong Amazon is burning
  • I'm marching for my grandkids
  • I'm with Greta
  • Start Acting like a Child
  • A picture of a windmill that said "Renewable Energy: I'm a big fan!"
  • Policy Change, not Climate Change
  • Run Forest Run!
  • Architects for the Planet
  • Act now! Need Advice? Ask a scientist!
  • Make Canada cold again
  • Make the planet Greta again
  • This planet is hotter than Young Leo
  • The oceans are rising and so are we
  • I can't believe I still have to protest this [word I try not to use]
  • I stand for what I stand on
  • Existence requires resistance
  • A tiny sign that said "Save paper."
  • And a chalkboard that said something like "This sign causes no waste!"
But my favourite sign said, "It's so important, even introverts are marching!" I told the woman holding the sign that I had found my people, and she replied, "We're here. We're just invisible."

As we walked, people chanted football-rally type of slogans, though "Climate Justice Now!" seemed a bit vague to me. Then again, I guess it's not so catchy to march to "Lower the voting age to 16" or "Responsible forest management" or "Conspicuous consumption has no place on a finite planet."

I watched this stream of passionate humanity -- green hair, globe-painted faces -- and felt the tears on my cheeks. I haven't stopped to think why. Touching to see such conviction? Love for this crazy, messy, exuberant city? Pride for Canadians who left work and school to participate? Or just sorrow for this achingly beautiful, abused, patient, generous, injured planet? I echo Enoch's cry: "When will the earth rest?" We owe it such a deep apology. The earth trembles. I'm surprised it hasn't shaken us off like fleas long before this.

Climate change is the only issue. If we had social and racial justice, equitable economics, fair distribution of resources, safety, tolerance, and peace, we could more easily address it. But without a planet to stand on, even those weighty matters...won't matter.

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