Haliburton County residents invited to join in global climate action

By Sue Tiffin

Update (Friday, Sept. 25, 2020): From Environment Haliburton: “As a result of safety concerns around current government regulations about
public gatherings, our Global Climate Action Day event has changed its location.
It will be held between the town docks and the lights at the Gelert Rd.
There is a maximum of 25 attendees. This will be monitored.
All C-19 protocols will be followed such as: wearing a mask, respecting a distance of 8 feet apart, with no singing, chanting or shouting. Please self- assess before attending.
Please bring a sign, if you can.
For information about the EH! webinar at 7:30 pm September 25, please go to www.environmenthaliburton.org. Please register if you plan to attend.”

Around the world, concerned advocates for environmental awareness will join together to mark the Global Day of Climate Action on Sept. 25, and a planned climate action protest in solidarity in Haliburton County is anticipated to go forward with organizers working to gather safely under new provincial guidelines restricting social gatherings. 

Environment Haliburton and Concerned Citizens of Haliburton County are co-hosting the Haliburton Highlands Climate Action Day event, welcoming individuals and groups to join from noon to 1 p.m. on Sept. 25 in front of the train beside Haliburton Highlands Secondary School for the second annual event held locally

Organizers say they continue to plan for a safe in-person demonstration despite the provincial government’s announcement Sept. 19 of a roll-back on permitted group sizes, which reduces limits on the number of people permitted to attend unmonitored and private social gatherings.  

Bonnie Roe of Concerned Citizens of Haliburton County said organizers are working on a plan of how to gather “safely and within the confines of the law and the new regulations issued by the Ford government,” with the organizing team getting in touch with OPP as well as the County of Haliburton, which owns the property in front of the train.
“Safety for our community is paramount,” said Roe. 

“Bottom line, we do plan to have an in-person demonstration… safely and legally…we’ll adjust as we need to,” said Carolynn Coburn, a director with Environment Haliburton. 

The Global Day of Climate Action is a youth-led initiative by global climate school strike movement Fridays for Future, which initially began with the action of Swedish student Greta Thunberg, who was 15 when she began protesting what she felt was a lack of action by government on the climate crisis. Though alone at first, she was soon joined by others in her local area, which sparked a movement that went global, with Thunberg since being nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize, and speaking at climate rallies at the United Nations and the World Economic Forum. The #FridaysForFuture movement, according to the group’s website, demands moral pressure be put on policymakers to insist they listen to scientists and take forceful action to limit global warming. The global climate action day on Sept. 25 is the group’s first global action day of the year, a press release on the Fridays for Future site noting that activists have had to find “new ways of protest” to demand climate action. 

“Due to the current circumstances actions may vary from normal, because in times of crisis we change our behaviour,” reads the press release. 

In Haliburton County, the first Global Day of Climate Action was initiated by then-Haliburton Highlands Secondary School student Jurgen Shantz, who protested every Friday for five weeks last year in front of the Dysart municipal office, noting he was inspired by Thunberg. He was joined by others that included students and adults, including members of the CCHC, EH, the Outloud Womyn’s Voices choir and members of the homeschooling community. The Global Day of Climate Action last September was also held in front of the train, with dozens of participants attending. 

“It’s alarming that we’ve sort of let climate change issues be overwhelmed by the pandemic issues,” said Coburn. “I mean, it’s not totally surprising, but the climate change problem continues. It hasn’t gone away.” 

Coburn cites catastrophic weather events – increased hurricanes, west coast wildfires, burning in the Amazon – as being prevalent in current world news updates. 

“There’s evidence of stronger and more frequent extreme weather events all over,” said Coburn. “And it’s difficult right here because everything looks normal so it’s more of a challenge to talk people into paying attention because things are pretty good here. Even in terms of the pandemic, we’ve been so fortunate that there have been few cases.” 

According to the Fridays for Future declaration, the activists ask that the global temperature rise less than 1.5 degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial levels; that climate justice and equity is ensured; and that policymakers listen to the best united science currently available. 

Even prior to the provincial guidelines of smaller crowd sizes, Coburn said the group would be observing COVID-19 practices, wearing masks, keeping two metres apart. 

In the evening, Environment Haliburton is holding a virtual “No Planet B” webinar event for people to tune into from home that will include a short informative video, and panel discussion, a presentation showing how climate change is affecting the region, a report on what local government is doing and a report from Climate Action Muskoka, which is working on a Declaration of Climate Emergency Resolution. Those wishing to attend the webinar need to register in advance. A registration link is available on the Environment Haliburton website.  

More than 2,400 strikes are registered to take place around the world, according to the Fridays for Future website, with 135 of those events taking place in Canada. 

For updates and further information, visit environmenthaliburton.org or follow Environment Haliburton on Facebook. 

For further information on how to participate virtually, visit: https://fridaysforfuture.org/take-action/how-to-strike/ for alternatives to physical strikes.