Despite rising COVID-19 cases, there’s no hiding the fact that greenhouse gas emission, sea levels, and global temperatures continue to rise as well. Therefore, there was no stopping Montreal youth from participating in the Global Youth Climate Strike on September 26.
As per the request of the organizers, participants gathered at Place du Canada by 1pm, having donned their masks and made their picket signs; a particularly poignant one read “Ça va bien brûler,” a take on the phrase made popular during stay-at-home mandates amid the pandemic: “Ça va bien aller.”
Their purpose? To implore the powers to be to take action so as to eventually achieve climate justice.
To demonstrate the urgency of this demand, a temporary art installation was enacted by For Our Kids Montréal. Members of this group set up rows of discarded children’s shoes, representing the gravity of climate change’s impacts on the lives of future generations.
“This is to represent the bleakness really of their future,” emphasized Dr. Kelly Martin, a member of the group.
Though this demand for climate justice may seem straight-forward, it is more multifaceted than some may be led to believe. In fact, aside from demanding carbon neutrality by 2030, the strikers’ demands specifically included: the regularization of migrant rights, racial justice, and decolonization. As such, the fight for Mother Nature is inherently intersectional.
With the effects of climate change becoming more rampant, there are bound to be environmental refugees, who should be allowed the same rights as average citizens.
As the impacts of climate change disproportionately affect people of a lower socioeconomic class and BIPOC, climate justice is also racial justice.
Because our history of colonization involved both the marginalization and land dispossession of BIPOC, particularly of Indigenous communities, to enable the colonizers’ relentless exploitation of that land’s natural resources, climate justice must also involve decolonization.
Lylou Sehili, a spokesperson for the Student Coalition for an Environmental and Social Shift, alludes to these ideas when expressing the importance of having an intersectional approach to the fight for climate justice: “There may be people who are going to be afraid, but these causes go hand-in-hand. Everything is connected, everything comes from the same system of oppression.”
As racial justice and decolonization are inherently part of climate justice, the organizers of the strike also emphasized how Indigenous sovereignty, as well as defunding the police, are key in this fight.
“These police forces operate on the principles of an oppressive state, the colonization made on the lands of the Wet’suwet’en nation in British Columbia to exploit oil. It is the same oppression that is present in the SPVM report, which indicates that Natives are more likely to be subjected to police arrests,” explains Sehili.
As shown in the ongoing Wet’suwet’en land crisis, Indigenous communities continue to be systematically dispossessed of their lands in favour of Coastal GasLink’s pipeline project, which will inevitably harm both the environment and the Indigenous communities’ way of life as a result.
The RCMP is an institution that is instrumental in enabling these harmful impacts by arresting protestors in the community, particularly women, and by dissolving the protests so as to enforce Coastal GasLink’s illegally granted court injunction.
(Be sure to read Natalia Cristina Ibáñez’s “You Should Care About Wet’suwet’en” and Mel Spiridigliozzi’s “You Should Still Care About Wet’suwet’en” to learn more about this issue.)
Therefore, as long as systems of othering and exploitation, which are protected by the police, are at the core of how our society functions, climate justice must require social justice, hence the specific demands made by the organizers of the strike that were fervently supported by its participants.
To think otherwise points to one’s position of privilege, for how can the system possibly be made to cease exploiting Mother Nature if it continues to neglect the wellbeing of others, particularly BIPOC?
By Mel Spiridigliozzi