High school students have made much progress since the era of skipping class to smoke a quick bowl or do scandalous things with a sweetheart in a Honda Tercel between lunch and third period. Instead, today’s youth are skipping class to march on Alberta’s Legislature in solidarity with a worldwide climate protest.
Yet, this isn’t just some fortuitous gathering of adolescents, in fact, with the rapidness that these students organized themselves—they should be the ones considering government work.
The event was created with the influence of several local environmental organizations, including the Edmonton branch of Extinction Rebellion and Climate Justice Edmonton.
However, it’s the students themselves that did the majority of the legwork in organizing the event, unifying several schools across the city with one common goal —to demand federal and provincial mandates that adhere to a ‘Green New Deal,’ as well as hold government bodies accountable for mismanagement of Indigenous rights, emissions, and environmental impact.
“I’m astonished at how intelligent and thoughtful these students are; they show immense maturity when it comes to the threat of climate change,” says Michael James, a representative for Extinction Rebellion.
James was in correspondence with student representatives over the three-week period building up to the event. Rather than play protest chaperone, he instead let the student body manifest their own outlines for what areas they wanted covered in the protest. Resulting in droves of students showing up signs in hand, and chanting in unison. Even with all the vigor of the event, there of course was the concern of just how many people would listen to a legion of teens.
“A lot of people don’t like to listen to children because we’re, well, children. But at the end of the day it’s our future. We’re not just a bunch of rowdy teenagers; we have a point,” says Sarah Dornbush, a student who spoke at the event.
The event was bolstered with student speakers and representatives of numerous organizations taking to the stand—all backlit by the midday sun, and the thaw of spring. But even with spirits high, those who turned up knew that there was a hefty dose of misbehavior in the event’s foundation, as this was a student protest and students traditionally, should be in class.
“Numerous incentives were put in place on my end to ensure that there wouldn’t be any negative reproductions, making sure we wouldn’t go against student code of conduct,” says an organizer of the group who chose to go by Daryn.
“It is imperative that the public know that this isn’t a strike against schools or any educational institution, but it is a climate strike. It’s crucial for school faculty to understand that what this is a protest against is government inaction,” Daryn says.
This event surely represents a sign of things to come, as the student coalition already has plans for a secondary march in May. Yet, any type of student-lead protest comes with the inevitable concerns, such as leadership, longevity and sustainability.
But as a zealous Michael James said, as a chorus of chanting students erupted behind him: “Why would they need to go to school on a Friday like this, if they have no future?”
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