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THE GLOBAL CLIMATE STRIKE: “GOING FORWARD, KNOWING THE WAY BACK”

Written By: Michelle

On November 29, over two hundred climate strikers, faces flushed from the cold,
gathered at First United Church for a panel on Canada’s international climate
opportunities leading up to the COP25, the annual UN climate change conference
taking place in Madrid this December. Dozens of signs with bright visuals and
rousing slogans were piled up outside the door, as the protesters sought warmth
inside after the rally in Waterloo Square.


The panel, organized by Climate Strike Kitchener-Waterloo, the local chapter of the
global Fridays for Future movement, featured environmental and social justice
leaders from the community. Moderating the event was Samantha Estoesta, an
equity advocate, who opened with a thought provoking land acknowledgement. She
then called on the audience to remember the Indigenous and other climate activists
of colour who have been on the frontlines of ecological action for decades, albeit
while facing massive social and economic repercussions. She implored her listeners
to leverage their privilege to lift up those marginalized voices, particularly as
Indigenous reconciliation has become an increasingly important issue intertwined
with climate action.

Attendees fill the pews at First United Church in Uptown Waterloo.


Estoesta then introduced the panel: Faris Juma Radstake, a community organizer
with the African Community Wellness Initiative; Lori Campbell, the Director of the
Waterloo Indigenous Student Centre; and Robert McLeman, a Professor of
Geography and Environment Studies at Wilfrid Laurier University and IPCC
(Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) coordinating lead author.


Lori Campbell prefaced the discussion with a brief explanation of UNDRIP, otherwise
known as the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, adopted by the
international community in 2007. Despite UNDRIP’s comprehensive policies that
seek to uphold fundamental human and land rights, it has still yet to be implemented
in Canada. Indigenous people, Campbell declared, have been the most adversely
affected by mainstream climate decisions, despite having been historically excluded
from the political process on climate action. “We need a decolonized approach,” she
noted, “We want to have the table, not just be invited to it.” She emphasized the
strong connection between climate justice and Indigenous justice, a theme that came
up again consistently during the duration of the discussion.


The first question posed to Faris Juma Radstake revolved around the current status
of the world’s progress on climate justice. She spoke about the importance of
naming Africa and the concept of blackness in the conversation around climate
racism. She referenced the African Indigenous Knowledge Systems (AIKS)
movement and the statistic that 7 of the 10 most affected countries by climate change are in Africa. Localized and grassroots movements, advocacy, listening, and
learning were the best ways forward: “We must continue speaking truth to power,”
she stated.


Then, Estoesta asked Robert McLeman what Canada should do to preemptively
prepare for the incoming influx of climate refugees, a topic on which he had done
extensive research. He began by reminding the audience that the planet’s future
depends on greenhouse gas levels, one of the major priorities outlined in the
influential Paris Accords. A new report, he explained, predicted a 3.4°C rise in global
temperatures compared to pre-industrial levels, leading to a dramatic increase in
droughts, floods, and displacement of vulnerable populations. He stressed that the
world knows what it needs to do, and has the tools to do so, but must accomplish
three goals in order to successfully mitigate climate change and enable people to
migrate with dignity: we must exceed Paris Accords targets, meet the UN
Sustainable Development Goals, and strive for the The Global Compact for Safe,
Orderly and Regular Migration.


To conclude, a final question was presented to the panel: what is Canada’s role at
COP25 to ensure all climate activists are safe? The three panelists each answered
the question in a personal way, incorporating aspects of their work into their
responses. Radstake tied her statements back to the conceptualization of
environmental activism and called for a more holistic view of the global and local
Indigenous struggle for sustainability. She said that that guardianship is not always
recognized officially, as it is often just a virtue of lives lived in an attempt to
re-establish a relationship with the land and its associated traditions of the past.
According to Radstake, there needs to be a balance between speaking truth to
violence and “preparing an ark” that is inclusive of all. “You stand on the bones of so
many people… there’s so much wisdom and teaching of what it means to resist, to
sustain oneself in the violence that’s inevitable,” she iterated.


Campbell continued in a similar vein, saying that “We’re not activists, we’re just
being who we are- we’re just protecting our land.” She emphasized that Indigenous
people have not had the choice of conspicuous non-consumption, and pointed out
the inherent privilege in the zero-waste and consumerism debate. “We don’t need
allies now, we need accomplices,” she told the audience, “Once we know who we
are, we can do better together.”


Prof. McLeman focused his attention on concrete actions that everyone could adopt
in order to carry on practical climate action outside of rallies and protests. Among the
examples he listed were reducing household energy usage, taking public transport
instead of driving, and avoiding meat. Collectively, he pointed out, we all need to be
part of the solution. McLeman also spoke on the importance of recognizing history and heritage, saying that “We need to start caring about that somewhere we come
from.”


Finally, moderator Estoesta summed up much of the speakers’ words with a Filipino
proverb: you can’t go forward without knowing the way back. The saying served to
connect all of the panelists’ main ideas: that acknowledging the traditions and
wisdom of the past, especially of Indigenous people, is fundamental in the
international fight against climate change.


As the event wrapped up, the attendants filtered out into the church’s foyer, where
several local environmental groups had set up booths and were fielding questions.
Among those present were The Council of Canadians, who were advocating for
Waterloo to become a certified Blue Community and to support the idea of a water
commons framework; Communities for Conservation, an organization that plants
trees internationally; The Kitchener-Waterloo Climate Save, which advocates for
veganism; and Extinction Rebellion, members of whom were planning on staging a
protest against Black Friday in Conestoga Mall.


Climate Strike Waterloo has organized monthly strikes since the beginning of 2019.
For more updates on future events, be sure to check out their website.
“Friday, Jan 10th, 2020 12:00 Noon — Protest at Waterloo Town Square (Tentative).
We’re not stopping until Climate Crisis solution is in hand. Let’s keep up the pressure
and gather support with a continuation of our monthly strike.”

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One thought on “THE GLOBAL CLIMATE STRIKE: “GOING FORWARD, KNOWING THE WAY BACK”

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