Plans by local youth to host North Saanich’s first Fridays for Future event have generated support, but also skepticism from the community and council.
A group of youth from North Saanich and Central Saanich are planning to rally outside North Saanich municipal hall as part of the Fridays for Future movement. The movement, launched by Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg, is a global international climate movement that tries to raise awareness and generate action in the fight against climate change. It aims primarily, but hardly exclusively, at mobilizing youth in arguing that young people will have to bear the consequences of climate change.
Anna Hulbert, who attends Grade 12 at Parkland Secondary School and serves as youth leader for Fridays for Future in North Saanich, said Friday’s event aims to keep the pressure on the municipality. Council, she said, did not “exactly jump” on the report from the municipality’s select committee on climte change, whose term ran its course in the summer. “There is a lot of controversy around this,” said Hulbert, who was a member of that committee.
Hulbert hopes Friday’s event will draw up to 50 people with all wearing masks against the backdrop of COVID-19. Hulbert acknowledged the coronavirus has changed the public’s focus, but the need for action remains.
“We owe it to our kids to be doing everything we can,” said Anne-Marie Daniel, a former member of North Saanich’s now-disbanded climate change select committee. “It has been estimated that we have an eight-year window until runaway global warming.”
Daniel described North Saanich as “laggard” compared to other jurisdictions when it comes to fighting climate change. “We are not doing anything really courageous, even though we have more resources to do something.”
At least two councillors, Coun. Patricia Pearson and Coun. Murray Weisenberger plan to take part.
Pearson said it’s important for her to support the youth. “I believe that our constituents think it’s an important issue and that it is a priority,” she said.
Weisenberger, who currently chairs the climate caucus of the Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM), has experienced the power of the Fridays for the Future movement, when its 2019 rally in Vancouver coincided with the last day of the annual UBCM conference.
“It was really inspiring from my perspective,” he said. “So I want to support the youth who are paying attention to their future.”
Like Pearson, Weisenberger would like to see the municipality do more to fight climate change, adding that he finds a lot of agreement with Daniel’s statement is a laggard on climate change. North Saanich has in past received recognition for its accelerated progress in meeting provincial climate change goals with Sidney and Central Saanich further ahead and also taking to improve its infrastructure.
One member of council who won’t be joining Friday’s protest is Brett Smyth. “You’ll probably find that there are a few of us, who won’t,” he said.
Smyth, believes that the climate is changing, but questions whether human-caused greenhouse gas emissions are responsible for climate change.
“We really do not know scientifically how to separate man’s forces from the natural forces,” he said. “There are all kinds of factors that play into it.”
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