My Experiences at Climate Marches and the Global Response to COP21

This past Sunday, November 29th was the "100% Possible" Ottawa Climate March, and I was lucky enough to be part of an excited bus full of enviro-folk from Queen's University and Kingston. There were little kids and their on the bus, Kingston locals, lots of Queen's students in various fields (Geography, Music, Life Sciences, etc.), a Trent University student, and more. Our diverse group was merely a speck on the 25,000+ people participating in the march once we arrived in Ottawa. 

The Queen's Backing Action on Climate Change (QBACC) sponsored bus to Ottawa! 

The Queen's Backing Action on Climate Change (QBACC) sponsored bus to Ottawa! 

From signs and banners and placards displaying a wide range of environmental issues and sentiments, it was clear that large Climate Marches such as this one are incredibly good to bring together all different facets of the larger environmental movement. The organization "Ecology Ottawa" that mass organized this "100% Possible" climate march was providing hundreds of "100% Clean/ 100% Justice/ 100% Solutions" signs. There were definitely some other interesting banners (see Justin Trudeau "Papa's Here for You" - is this sarcasm? is this serious?!?) discussing specific environmental issues (e.g. Cowspiracy-specific posters). I really loved the QBACC banner "Change the Politics, Not the Climate". 

I made this! Me (2nd from the left) and my Queen's friends! 

I made this! Me (2nd from the left) and my Queen's friends! 

The beginning of the Climate March, led by Indigenous Elders & Youth. (Credit: 100% Possible - Ecology Ottawa)

The beginning of the Climate March, led by Indigenous Elders & Youth. (Credit: 100% Possible - Ecology Ottawa)

Indigenous Elders and Youth sitting at Parliament at the end of the march. (Credit: http://www.100possible.ca) 

Indigenous Elders and Youth sitting at Parliament at the end of the march. (Credit: http://www.100possible.ca) 

It is extremely important that Indigenous people are at the forefront of our climate movements, as they have often been part of the most vulnerable communities in Canada affected by environmental destruction and the health-risks associated with unsustainable fossil fuel extraction processes. (See more: Climate Change, Health, and Vulnerability in Canadian Northern Aboriginal Communities)  Although Indigenous Elders and Youth were key speakers at the opening and closing of the Climate March, they were unfortunately not given the attention and respect they deserved -- a stark contrast to the rounds of applause given to David Suzuki. Not to say that David Suzuki hasn't been important to Canadian environmentalism, but it was disheartening to see how much people cared about what David Suzuki had to say but couldn't listen to the speeches of Indigenous Elders with the same respect. 

For the most part, once the march slowly slowly started, it was a very lovely family-friendly affair with blaring Top 40 Pop Music (Roar? Eye of the Tiger?) and thousands of thousands of people marching for environmental advocacy. 

One observation I made at this climate march versus the April 11th Quebec City Act on Climate March was that the Ottawa one felt much more positive and optimistic. This was contrasted from the more hostile, frustrated and perhaps angry tone of the Quebec March. I think the Canadian federal election in between was mostly at fault for this change, as the Quebec protesters had several "Stop Harper" signs and demanded change from Canadian environmental policy makers.

April 11th Act on Climate March - Me (fourth from the left) and my GTA environmental friends. 

April 11th Act on Climate March - Me (fourth from the left) and my GTA environmental friends. 

 I was surprised to see that this sentiment was not shared at the Ottawa Climate March, as technically this global climate march day was surrounding the 2015 Paris Climate Conference (COP21 - Conference of Parties). When climate activists in Paris were banned from protesting because of security reasons (attacked with tear gas, etc.), we were all surprisingly so calm and happy. When Trudeau hasn't made "concrete plans for a national climate change plan" (although proclaiming that "Canada is Back" at COP21- CTV News), it seems surprising that the tone of the climate march was so pleasant. The benefit of having such a polite protest however means that it is extremely inclusive and open to all people, regardless of how well informed they are or how radical of environmental politic is. 

More than just the 25,000 in Ottawa, this day of Global Climate Marches was a remarkable feat bringing together over 785,000 people all over the world in 175 countries. 

London, UK (Credit: http://globalclimatemarch.org/)

London, UK (Credit: http://globalclimatemarch.org/)

Dhaka, Bangladesh (Credit: http://globalclimatemarch.org/)

Dhaka, Bangladesh (Credit: http://globalclimatemarch.org/)

All in all, it was a great opportunity to be part of this incredible gathering of people in Canada's capital to advocate for climate action and environmental advocacy. Following the climate marches, it is our responsibility to stay informed about how the world leaders are responding to this immense support for climate action and take action to fight for better environmentalism in our local communities. For staying informed: the Canadian Youth Climate Coalition, COP21 Delegation has a great website updating their experiences at the Climate Summit. For local environmental action: there are a lot of different opportunities to get involved in environmental student initiatives and community organizations right here on our Sustainable Queen's website. 

Thanks for reading! 

- Diana Yoon