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COLUMN: Why a climate strike will occur March 19 in Nelson

Fridays for Future writes about the steps being taken to keep the event safe
Fridays for Future is organizing a climate strike in Nelson for March 19. Photo: Submitted

Submitted by Fridays for Future Nelson

Nelson will be participating in the next global climate strike organized by Fridays for Future Nelson on March 19. Although there are hundreds of people in Nelson who support this and want to see more action taken on the climate crisis, we have also heard from many critics. We have been told that we should not be gathering during a public health emergency, that the climate crisis can wait, and that we won’t achieve anything anyway.

These opinions can be difficult to hear. For many youth, it is perceived as dismissive of the urgency of the climate crisis. The existential threat of the climate crisis is all too obvious, and it is crystal clear that we need urgent action, which of course does not reduce in any way the crisis of COVID-19 that also needs to be addressed. Crises are not mutually exclusive.

We wanted to take the opportunity to explain to the public exactly how this strike will be operated, as well as why we believe it is important. We do not take the task of organizing a gathering such as this lightly, and we talked a great deal about how best to do it, and indeed whether or not it was appropriate. It is our hope to address some of the concerns we have heard.

The strike will take place on March 19th at noon. Strikers will meet at City Hall, and as soon as they arrive, they will be placed in small groups of around seven people. Groups will physically distance and we expect that attendees will wear masks. Each group will head to a different location in downtown Nelson, spread out over several blocks. Most groups will be within sight of another group, but everyone will remain distanced.

It is important to note that protests have not been linked to outbreaks of COVID, as long as they take precautions such as these. Black Lives Matter protests, which swept around the globe in the summer of last year, resulted in little transmission of COVID.

This was a movement of millions, compared to our strike of likely less than 50. It is also worth noting that schools remain open. We would ask: which seems safer? Thirty kids, unmasked, in a crowded classroom for six hours a day, or groups of seven people, masked, outside, and distanced for one hour? The answer is abundantly clear.

In no way do we intend to dismiss or trivialize the threat of COVID-19. We have thought very carefully about how best to run this strike in a way that is safe, and that does not put anyone at risk. We have been criticized for this decision, and for the decision to hold previous strikes. There are those who claim we cannot focus on climate change right now. We young people say differently.

Let us be clear. There has never, thus far in this country, been a focus on the climate crisis. If there was truly a focus on the climate crisis, we would be seeing real action. We know from the government’s response to this pandemic what a real response to a crisis looks like. Instead, emissions continue to rise, extreme weather events continue to increase, and we edge ever closer towards the point of no return. Now is not the time to turn away from big bold solutions. We are on the streets to remind our governments of that.

We are not, as some critics like to claim, striking just for the sake of it or because we enjoy it. We are striking for our future, for the survival of humanity, and for the future of our planet. To us, there has never been a more urgent cause, and this is why we continue to strike.