Even though Alberta’s environment minister Jason Nixon and the UCP decided to tune out the 16-year-old Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg, thousands upon thousands of Albertan climate change activists and protesters eagerly await her presence and words on Friday afternoon.
As she arrives from her group march through downtown Edmonton—sporting a turquoise parka—and walks up the steps of the Alberta Legislature, the crowd lets out a thunderous cheer, loud enough to dampen even the horns of the United We Roll pro-energy and oil convoy making its way down 99 Street.
The crowd listens to passionate speeches from Indigenous and non-Indigenous youth—all as well versed as Thunberg herself. Prayers from Elders, and a few booming hand-drum songs by Chubby Cree—a local all-women Indigenous hand drumming group—keep the crowd rallying. Thunberg stands quietly to the side, listening intently.
One woman begins shouting “oil pride” from the back but is drowned out by the mountainous drumming.
Soon Thunberg takes to the podium and shares that she is ecstatic and thankful for an amazing turnout. She then gives credit to the other speakers.
“It’s incredible to see so many young people and Indigenous leaders gather here today … You are the hope. And thank you for the wonderful reception I have received here in Alberta,” Thunberg says in a quiet, but commanding voice.
“Alberta and Edmonton welcomes you,” screams a woman.
“Screw Nixon,” a man yells from the west side of the crowd.
“So, today is Friday and as always we are on climate strike,” Thunberg continues. “Young people around the globe are sacrificing their education to bring attention to the climate and ecological emergency.”
The crowd roars in unison.
“And we aren’t doing this because we want to. We aren’t doing this because it’s fun. We aren’t doing this because we have a special interest in the climate and want to become politicians when we grow up. We are doing this because our future is at stake.”
A small group of 20-30 counter protesters approach from the very back of the Legislature downtown walkway. They seem timid and are for the most part quiet.
“We are doing this because in this crisis, we will not be bystanders,” Thunberg echoes through the Legislature speakers.
She then cites the 2018 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report that states the world had a 67 percent chance of limiting global temperature below 1.5 degrees with 420 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide left in the CO2 budget.
“Now that number is down to less than 360 gigatonnes as we emit 42 gigatonnes of CO2 every year if you include land use. At current emissions levels that remaining CO2 budget is gone within less than eight and a half years.”
“We cannot allow this crisis to be a partisan political question. The climate and ecological crisis is far beyond party politics and the main enemy right now should not be any political opponent. Because our main enemy right now is physics.”
“Amen,” shouts a man holding an emerald sign saying “Our Time for change is now.”
After her speech concludes, Thunberg leaves the crowd with a hopeful factoid.
“One year ago, we were just a handful of school children and today we are over 7.5 million people across the world that make up this movement. Thank you.”
After Thunberg leaves the steps, a long-haired counter protest begins chanting “I love oil and gas. I love oil and gas.” Another oil industry supporter begins belting out “O, Canada.”
The two are snuffed out quickly as a group of activists with pro environment signs turn to the two men and chant things like “Hey, hey, ho, ho, oil and gas have got to go,” and the old classic “What do we want? Climate justice. When do we want it? Now!”
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