In continued efforts to address climate change and make Niagara-on-the-Lake more eco-friendly, two young climate activists have taken matters into their own hands by forming a Climate Action Committee.
In October, St. Michael Catholic Elementary School students Molly Shara and Hazel Norris, both 13, started holding monthly strikes in front of town hall as part of the Fridays for Future global climate change movement.
Their goal was to ask the town to declare a climate emergency.
At the time, Lord Mayor Betty Disero said she wasn’t “prepared” to make such a commitment.
In December, the girls decided to go another direction and instead of holding a strike, formed a Climate Action Committee and invited about 10 community members who are enthusiastic about climate issues. Some of the committee members include Couns. Gary Burroughs and Norm Arsenault, Vino Velo owner Steve Irwin, NOTL Today (Facebook) administrator Julia Buxton-Cox, a former Green Party candidate for the Niagara Centre Riding Joe Dias, and a few people from The Grove farm shop on Niagara Stone Road.
“We think it was a great thing to start with the striking. We made our point,” Shara said. “I think talking works well as well. We talked to the (lord) mayor, we talked to Coun. Norm Arsenault, and talking to people in the town is also really great because that’s how we actually make a difference.”
“That was spreading awareness, and this is actually making changes.”
At the committee’s first meeting, held in January at the Southbrook Vineyards Winery, they looked at declaring a climate emergency and what can be done to expand and make transportation more efficient in NOTL.
“Niagara-on-the-Lake transit doesn’t have a lot of stops, it doesn’t stop as frequently. It runs on the hour, so we’re trying to change that,” Norris told The Lake Report. “It’s more environmentally-friendly to have everybody on the buses instead of their cars.”
Some of their ideas also included connecting NOTL transit with the Niagara Falls and St. Catharines buses, and reducing single-use plastics by encouraging business owners to provide more eco-friendly alternatives to plastic takeout containers.
“It’s definitely possible for the store owners to get the biodegradable stuff but it’s harder, so we're just trying to work together to achieve that,” Shara said.
Having more experienced people on board with them “definitely helps” and is better than “having two people advising each other,” she added.
Their next step is to make a presentation at the council meeting on Feb. 24 to talk about why the town should declare a climate emergency.