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Sunday, April 14, 2024
Students strike back: NOTL youth take to the streets to advocate for better treatment of the planet


Niagara-on-the-Lake students braved strong winds and chilly weather to stage a strike for climate change action outside the town hall Friday afternoon.

March 15 marked Fridays For Future, a global climate change movement when children and students hold strikes to draw attention to the issue of climate change.

The movement started in August 2018 by 16-year-old Greta Thunberg who was skipping classes to protest in front of the Swedish parliament in hopes the government would cut carbon emissions to adhere to the Paris Agreement.

Thunberg’s action inspired hundreds of thousands of youth around the world to call for more aggressive action against climate change. She has now been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Around 120 countries and more than 2,000 cities and towns participated globally in Fridays for Future.

Locally, two Grade 8 Crossroads Public School students, Kaitlyn Lambert and Elena Berardocco, took the initiative to organize the March break event.

It started when Lambert was looking for a topic for her weekly school report about current events found in newspapers or in the news. She and Berardocco found out about Thunberg and Fridays For Future and got inspired by the Swedish teen’s actions.

The girls’ siblings and friends also decided to join the strike.

“If we don’t do anything, a lot of people are going to lose their homes because of the flooding and other natural disasters that happen because of this,” Lambert told The Lake Report.

Lianne Lambert, Kaitlyn’s mother, said they were thinking of striking in St. Catharines or Niagara Falls, but decided to start locally.

“Climate change is going to affect their (children’s) life a lot,” she said. “When they grow up, they’re the ones that will have to deal with the consequences of our actions or inaction. So I think it gives them a chance to stand up and say, ‘A change is coming and what kind of change are we going to make.’ ”

Kaitlyn’s younger sister, Morgan, also goes to Crossroads school. A Grade 7 student said she wants to help fight the climate change.

“I want my kids to see the snow,” she said. “The scientists say in 2030 climate change will be unstoppable. So maybe even soon Canada will be a new Florida.”

Bethany Poltl, who is a chair of Lord Mayor’s youth advisory council, said she was proud to be at the strike.

“We need to be educated on climate change and we need to be making steps towards improving how we do things, what we’re leaving on our Earth,” said Poltl, a Grade 11 student at Laura Secord Secondary School in St. Catharines.

“We live on this planet and we have to be here for a while longer if we want to survive,” added Elena Berardocco. “So, it’s really important that we keep it healthy.”

“I think if we’re going to live on this planet for the rest of our planet, we need to start and actually take care of it,” said Keira Walker, another Grade 8 student at Crossroads.

Some of the solutions to stop climate change offered by the students, include proper recycling, making more affordable environmentally friendly items, littering less and spreading the word about the issue.

In total, around two dozen people showed up at the strike, including kids and their parents, town officials and some local supporters.

NOTL resident Kim Ort said she learned about the event online and came out to show her support.

“I’ve just been really inspired by the kids in the last year all over the world and I think we need to listen to what they are saying,” she said.

Some people, like Devon Fornelli and Amanda Selig, travelled to the event from St. Catharines and Niagara Falls respectively.

Fornelli came with his son Paolo because he said the government needs to see there are people for whom the issue is important. Selig said she was planning to go to Queen’s Park with her son Benjamin but thought she could “do more here (in NOTL) than I can there.”

A number of town officials also showed up to support the students, including Lord Mayor Betty Disero, Coun. Norm Arsenault and Coun. Stuart McCormack.

“I think it’s very important that all these kids step up. It’s their future, after all,” Arsenault told The Lake Report.

In a letter sent to Lianne Lambert, Arsenault said the girls and “all children around the world need to be congratulated for taking a stand and saying, ‘Enough. Governments, you are messing up our futures.’”

Disero said the event was “fabulous.” 

I’m hoping they will feel like they’re doing something and their voice is a positive point for change,” she said. “I’m really proud of all them.”

When asked how NOTL councillors are helping fight climate change, Disero said they were doing “small things.”

“We stopped using plastic bottles. We’re a paperless organization,” she told The Lake Report. “It’s hard in the small community to act alone but if we can get the region involved in some pretty dramatic steps, then we’re better off. And we’re doing what we can.”

Area MPP Wayne Gates (NDP-Niagara Falls), also stopped by the town hall to tell the students he supports them “100 per cent” and suggested students make the strike an annual event during March break.

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