Student Ella Kokelj, left, stands with fellow protesters during a school strike for climate in Yellowknife on May 3, 2019. Ollie Williams/Cabin Radio
A group of several dozen students and supporters marked Yellowknife’s first school strike for climate on Friday.
While the broader movement, which sees students skip Friday school to demand more action to combat climate change, has been building worldwide since last August, this is the first such organized event in the territorial capital.
Inuvik students held their sixth such event on the same day, handing out cloth bags at the town’s Northmart to encourage the reduction of plastic waste.
In Yellowknife, students gathered throughout the day outside the downtown post office, holding placards bearing slogans warning older residents that “your mistakes = my future.”
“We’re hoping to raise awareness and incite action at all levels of government,” student Ella Kokelj told Mornings at the Cabin as the action – which she helped to organize – began at 8am on Friday.
“I’m taking action towards the future of my planet,” said Kokelj, a Grade 11 student at the city’s Sir John Franklin high school.
“I think there can be a lot of change and this can help encourage education about climate change in the public, and encourage governments to make positive changes toward reducing greenhouse gas emissions and putting a price on pollution.”
The school strike for climate is inspired by the actions of Swedish 16-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg, who first staged a protest in August 2018 outside her country’s parliament.
The movement has grown significantly through the opening months of 2019, and students across Canada – and other nations – staged similar protests of varying sizes on Friday.
Canada’s North is already proving more susceptible than much of the globe to climate change, with a recent, comprehensive report showing temperatures in northern regions are warming at up to three times the rate experienced elsewhere.
Listen to Ella Kokelj and others at the student protest on Friday’s Mornings at the Cabin podcast (segment starts at 19:08).
In response to pressures ranging from thawing permafrost to changing flora and fauna, the territorial government has promised “a long-term comprehensive and coordinated response to climate change.”
Almost exactly one year ago, the territory released a “climate change strategic framework” intended to guide the NWT in reducing its carbon footprint, improving knowledge of climate change, and adapting to its impacts.
In that document, the territory pledged: “By 2030, the NWT will enjoy a strong, healthy economy that is less dependent on fossil fuels (compared to 2005) and will have developed the knowledge, tools and measures needed to increase resilience and adapt to the changing northern climate.”
An initial, four-year plan identifies more than 100 actions for the territory to take in trying to make that a reality.
Those actions range from implementing carbon pricing – due to take effect this summer – through to improved monitoring, the establishment of new protected areas, and managing forests to improve their carbon capture.