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Students gather on Parliament Hill demanding environmental action

Thousands of students from across Canada stood on Parliament Hill in the rain last month demanding that the federal government take action at the upcoming UN environmental summit in Copenhagen. “When we go to Copenhagen, Canada has to choose: Are we going to lead, follow or get out of the way?” said Gracen Johnson, organizer of Fill the Hill, the demonstration that took place on October 24. “It’s got to be one of those three.” Students at the rally were advocating for “mitigation, adaptation and a green economy.”

Mitigation is the science-based emission reduction targets, Johnson said. Adaptation is the students’ demand for a fair climate deal. “To have a green economy, we need green jobs. We need just transition for workers, we need to rethink the way we plan our cities, and we need urban transportation that’s so much better than it is. “We have the resources available here and it’s just not being utilized and I think that’s criminal.”

Approximately 3,000 students attended the rally.

“Everyone was together and we were all rallying but there’s so much negative information floating around,” said Jordie Cumber, a student at the University of Ottawa. “The energy could have been better. ‘Here are the positive things we can do,’ instead of, ‘We suck. We don’t do anything’.”

Johnson said she thinks the message was received. “It is very loud and clear. If you look on the news today you can see all of these people, worldwide, millions of people asking for the same thing. “For the message to be ignored, it would be astounding. We’ll see what the leaders do with that.”

Thousands of protesters gathered on Parliament Hill October 24 Photo: Peter Dudley

Most of the effort was organized on the web, with Johnson communicating with volunteers via Skype (a long-distance video calling system) and e-mail for the past 10 months. “I have 70 more hours a week of my life to enjoy now that it’s over,” Johnson said, adding that it’s going to be odd having so much free time.

“It’s been so much work, but totally rewarding. In our debriefings at the pubs tonight, we were talking about how it’s going to be like withdrawal. This issue is so important. To not be organizing and mobilizing would be impossible for me.” “World leaders are going to decide the future of humanity,” she added. “I guess we’ll see what happens.”

The UN environmental conference will take place December 6-18 in Copenhagen.



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