Written by Alison Gu
We hear it all the time: today’s youth are more anxious than any other preceding generation; we’re experiencing high rates of burn-out; we’re lazier, with less drive and ambition. People attribute these fallibilities to everything from our social media usage to our obsession with avocado toast. I think they’re all completely and unequivocally wrong.
Our anxiety is related to the extreme precarity of our futures, especially within the context of global crises. It’s related to the fact that we’re constantly made to feel utterly powerless against these growing threats, while being told that the future of our planet relies solely upon our actions. We experience high rates of burn-out because on top of juggling classes, jobs, and extracurriculars, we’re bombarded with stories of oil spills and catastrophe, heaping amounts of information and news impossible to comb through, and reminders/guilt-trips to “do our part” for the planet. And if there is truth to the perceived lack of ambition that youth have, then it is only because ambition requires planning, and planning requires the certainty of a future.
Above it all, youth know the truth: that 70% of all greenhouse gasses are emitted by 100 companies. That oil executives are in the pockets — specifically, wallets — of governments. That the science is clear but politicians aren’t listening. That while we can ride our bikes and grow our own herbs and refuse those straws and use our travel mugs, those actions don’t lead to hugely impactful emissions reductions in the grand scheme of things. That everything we do is insignificant in the face of the true realities of corporate greed.
So what then?
Not all hope should be lost in individual change. When individual actions include building a movement, joining a movement, standing in solidarity, and speaking up alongside millions of other voices, they change the world. We may not hold positions of power, but we can wield power in numbers. When our voices are unified, we empower each other, and we empower ourselves. But just like with individual actions, individual voices won’t make the change that we need to see. We need to be loud enough — together — that they can’t ignore us.
Spurred by Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old Swedish activist who started camping outside the Swedish parliament in August 2018, students have been skipping school to demand government action on climate change. (Side note: if you haven’t heard Greta speak, do yourself a favour and watch her address to the UN assembly at COP24 in December 2018 or to delegates at the World Economic Forum in January 2019). Under the Fridays for Future movement, student-led grassroots initiatives have been popping up in countries across the globe.
This Friday, on March 15, McGill students are marching in international solidarity to demand progressive climate action and legislation that limits warming to 1.5 degrees. We’re marching for a Canada’s Green New Deal. We’re marching for climate justice.
Come join us at 12PM in front of the Arts building. It’s time to rise up. ✊
Alison Gu is a concerned citizen, lover of the environment, and one of the Sustainability Commissioners for the Students’ Society of McGill University. She is one of many young activists involved in planning and organizing the McGill contingent of the march.