Climate change protests raise awareness in Kitchener-Waterloo Region

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As global protests surrounding the issue of recognizing climate change continue to grow, students and climate change advocates in the Kitchener-Waterloo region arranged their own protest alongside the global “Fridays for Future” climate strike that took place on May 24.   

Over a hundred activists collected on the steps of Waterloo City Hall to participate in the conversation that began with the inspirational actions of 16-year-old Swedish student, Greta Thunberg.  

For their May 24 protest, along with their usual pattern of marches, striking and songs, the groups also orchestrated a “die-in,” whereby participants laid down on the pavement, following a series of gong rings, were given chalk outlines of their bodies — and laid silent for two minutes.  

The meaning behind this act was to emphatically symbolize climate change’s imminent impact on humanity’s future.  

 A number of youth-centred, local groups were responsible for organizing the May 24 protest, including Kitchener-Waterloo Climate Save, the local chapters of Citizens’ Climate Lobby, RISE for Climate Waterloo, 350.org, Extinction Rebellion and Divest Waterloo. 

These organizations have been persisting in their efforts to, among other things, have the region declare a climate change emergency, following the success of similar campaigns in cities such as Vancouver, Halifax and Kingston. 

Sophia Kudriavtsev, a recent graduate from the University of Waterloo and member of K-W Climate Save, has participated heavily in the “Fridays for Future” protests that have been organized in the region. 

 They note that one important aspect behind the protests — especially in their consistency — is the awareness and participation in the public discourse that the periodic events create.  

I think a lot of people don’t realize that we are facing a climate crisis and that time is very limited. We need people out, striking and taking action, waking up to the fact that this is our reality — that we probably are not going to have the world that a lot of people can live in, and [that], already, we’re seeing [the] effects of the climate crisis on people’s daily lives.

“I think a lot of people don’t realize that we are facing a climate crisis and that time is very limited. We need people out, striking and taking action, waking up to the fact that this is our reality — that we probably are not going to have the world that a lot of people can live in, and [that], already, we’re seeing [the] effects of the climate crisis on people’s daily lives,” Kudriavtsev said.

Another important goal for the protests, they note, is to demonstrate their level commitment and demand for change to various levels of government. 

“If you have all these kids skipping school on Fridays, the government will [have to] wake up and [say] ‘there’s a demand here — we have to take action’,” Kudriavtsev said. 

“At this point, the government knows what the solutions are; they know there’s a problem — there have been many, many climate scientists who have [discussed] the problems, who have given us [evidence and solutions].” 

 “So the strikes are about showing the government that you actually need to do this; you can’t just say you’re going to do it, you have to take action — and we’re holding you accountable,” they said. 

The groups have another climate protest planned for this Friday, June 7, at 1:00 p.m., in which they will be partnering with the “Power of Many” rally, hosted by the Ontario Federation of Labour.  

Similar to their other climate change protests, the event is not youth-exclusive — anyone, of any age, is encouraged to attend. What matters most, Kudriavtsev believes, is taking action. 

“It’s incredibly empowering, as an individual, to be able to go out in these times of despair, when you feel like climate change is inevitable and it’s scary and it’s going to have such an impact on our future — to go out there and actually take some action, and feel like you’re part of something bigger, is really worthwhile, so I encourage everyone to attend,” Kudriavtsev said. 

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