The message was clear.
Something needs to be done, and done now.
About 60 people gathered on the Court House steps Friday, and on the sidewalk of Queen Street, joining in one of many rallies which occurred across Canada Friday.
The Global Climate Protest, which saw millions of people turn out in countries around the world, was in part inspired by teen Greta Thunberg, who protested climate change in Sweden about a year ago. She encouraged youth to organize school strikes, as part of a movement called Fridays for Future.
When local senior Cynthia Rand heard about a rally planned in St. Catharines, she says, it didn’t seem right to drive her car to a protest for climate change, so she quickly organized one to be held in NOTL.
When she arrived, she was astonished by the turn-out waiting for her.
“I thought I’d be here, sitting on the Court House steps by myself, with one little sign,” she said.
“I was absolutely amazed.”
She underestimated the power of group emails and social media.
Her husband, along with several of her friends and acquaintances, sent out emails, while others, including Julia Buxton Cox, administrator of NOTL Today, a popular Facebook page, notified followers of the protest.
Many arrived on foot or bicycle, with signs optimistically proclaiming “you can make a difference,” urging change to protect animals, trees and humans, and the Amazon rainforest, one saying “Make love, not CO2.”
The thrill for many was the arrival of students from Royal Oak Community School. School director Julia Cain Murray had heard about it Thursday evening, and Friday morning students worked quickly to make signs before walking from their Wellington Avenue school rooms to the Court House.
“It was lovely to have the kids there, and the Shaw actors,” said Rand.
“It’s not a joyful occasion, especially for the kids. I’d imagine they’re full of foreboding. I can remember Tom, my middle child, worrying about nuclear energy at the age of 10. Kids worry about these things.”
Student Maya Gazzard asked for the opportunity to speak. “This planet is in need of change. We need to act now, or never,” she said, carrying a sign that proclaimed, “The time for action is now.”
Rand said it’s understandable individuals feel what they do doesn’t really matter, and worry about other things that are important, “but not as important as this.”
What is needed to slow global warming, she said, “is big government action, and big corporations and boards of directors to get involved. They have the power.”
But in the meantime, the small decisions and actions of individuals are also important, she says.
Rand said she began seriously thinking about global warming about 10 years ago. “It’s been a little cloud for me, there in the background, for quite a while. Now it’s a big cloud.”
“We have to think local, and we have to all do our part in saving the planet,” said Lord Mayor Betty Disero, also speaking to the school children about needing to do something to protect their future.
Buxton Cox said she was thrilled with the turnout, especially having the kids from Royal Oak join the protest.“The group of Shaw actors was a bonus — we didn’t even know they were going to be there,” she added.
She and her husband Dave wrote a rally cry the evening before, which boosted the energy level and helped motivate the crowd to get into the spirit of the protest:
“I don’t know but I’ve been told, a healthy planet is better than gold.
Here’s what I know the science told, we have to fix it before we get old.
Here’s what I know the science told, the great big icebergs need to be cold.
Here’s what I know the science told, we need to act and we need to be bold.
Here’s what I know the science told, heat is rising and we need it to hold.
Here’s what I know the science told, Act NOW so our kids can grow old!”
Rand said she hopes the enthusiasm and energy generated on Queen Street Friday morning can continue, with the students who were there, and also with the parents of the students. With a federal election approaching, votes can influence governments to take the big steps, she added.
She’s voting Green.