By Jenn Watt
Protesters assembled along Highland Street on Friday at noon to demand action on climate change and although they were only permitted to have 25 people attend as a COVID-19 precaution, the group still made their presence felt.
They came with signage and spaced themselves out along the road east of the intersection with Gelert Road, waving to motorists and gesturing to transport trucks to blow their horns. For the most part, over the one-hour demonstration, feedback was positive, with many cars beeping in support.
The protest, which coincided with others around the globe marking the Global Day of Climate Action, was organized jointly by Concerned Citizens of Haliburton County and Environment Haliburton. Bonnie Roe, an organizer, said it was important to keep climate change on the agenda, especially as COVID-19 takes up so much of the collective community’s consciousness.
“The whole climate crisis didn’t go away with COVID-19,” she said, while holding a placard that read “There is no Planet B.” “…The reason we’re doing this is we really think it’s still paramount that we bring it front and centre to the community and we’ve been getting a lot of support.”
The guidelines on gathering size have been confusing for organizers, who changed the venue the night before the event, which was to have taken place by the train by the high school. The school board has been strict about only permitting staff and students on school property, and organizers wanted to respect their rules.
Still, several people commented at the protest that it made little sense that only 25 people could be out in a public park, in a space where anyone is free to come and go. A remark was made that rules have not been the same across all of the province’s health units, with some being more permissive. In Toronto, the climate action protest had a few hundred people, according to media reports.
Focus on climate change has waned in recent months with COVID-19 taking centre stage. Organizer Carolynn Coburn said she understood why that happened, but wanted to see more attention given to the issue by government.
“It really, I think, ultimately it requires leadership at the national level,” she said. “You know, I can do all the right things at my place … that’s not going to turn the ship around. I think it’s national. But on the other hand, grassroots – we often hear that leaders follow the grassroots, so that means our municipal politicians can push, our provincial politicians can push. It’s up to everybody to do what they can given their position.”
The Global Day of Climate Action was created by the youth-led organization Fridays for Future, which demands that measures be taken to keep the global temperature from rising to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, “ensure climate justice and equity,” and abide by the Paris Agreement.