Blog by Gab D’Astous, Ottawa organizer for Climate 101
For the past few days I have been biking around Ottawa talking to folks about civil disobedience. Specifically, I’m talking to them about Climate 101, a plan that I, along with a 100 other students and youth, have to risk arrest on October 24th calling on Prime Minister Trudeau to take real climate action and reject the Kinder Morgan pipeline.
Trudeau is the self-appointed Minister of Youth. The Kinder Morgan pipeline, which has the same climate impact as adding over 30 million new cars to the road, is a project that directly threatens the future young people like me will inherit. Riding from one meeting to the next, the irony is palpable.
Trudeau made youth involvement in politics a pillar of his political identity, yet he seems to turn a deaf ear when we speak up on Indigenous rights and climate science. I guess that’s what you get with a Prime Minister, and Minister of Youth that seems to value selfies over substance.
As I bike along the beautiful Ottawa River, which could be flooded with tar sands crude if the Energy East pipeline is ever built, I remember my grade 11 civics teacher scolding the class. He accused us, our whole generation, of being apathetic. It’s something I’ve heard all too often from pretty much anyone old enough to remember a time before the internet. My generation, called millennials in the media, is the selfish generation. Unlike those who came before us, we constantly seem to fail some test of engaged citizenry.
My laughter mixes with the honking of geese resting on the bank of the river as they prepare to journey south for the winter.
What utter and complete bullshit. I think to myself.
I met two of my best friends in seventh grade one already a staunch feminist and the other a die-hard environmentalist. At 18, I joined hundreds of thousands of students in Québec to defend our education. We locked arms, faced down armoured riot police, risked arrest, got arrested and showed up to do it again and again, day after day through the months now called the “maple spring”. As I grew older, I travelled across and beyond Turtle Island, the indigenous name for what we now call North America, quickly discovering that youth across the globe are constantly leading movements and efforts to create loving communities and different worlds.
Now that I am back navigating the bike paths I grew up on, I think about all the conversations I’ve had over the past few weeks. Either over the phone or in person, I’ve talked about climate justice and getting arrested with people ranging from first-year university students to folks with stable government jobs. Sometimes these conversations take 5 minutes with folks agreeing to risk arrest without batting an eyelash. Other times, these conversations develop over the course of multiple coffees as my peer grapples with the uncertainty being arrest brings and their deep desire to take action. As we talk about social movements, climate science, Indigenous rights and our previous experiences, they slowly chart a path out of their comfort zone.
My generation is far from being apolitical, and even farther from being apathetic. The problem isn’t that we don’t speak up or show up. The problem seems to be that the politicians who ask us to do so haven’t heard what we have been saying all this time.
It might be because the truths we speak don’t uphold business as usual. We believe that another world is indeed possible, not just this one with a new coat of paint. And this might simply be something the Prime Minister isn’t interested in hearing.
Or maybe the Prime Minister is honest in his promise to listen to youth. Maybe our voices have simply been drowned out by oil and gas lobbyists. Maybe he just needs to be pushed in the right direction to uphold his promises on Indigenous rights and climate action.
Whatever the case may be, the past few weeks have given me the increased assurance that my generation will continue to speak up and show up for a more just world. Like all the other inspiring folks I’ve talked to in the lead up to Climate 101, we know that if we don’t act to save our future nobody will do it for us.
That’s why, on October 24th, I’ll be heading to Ottawa with a hundred of my peers to speak a truth directly to power – climate leaders don’t build pipelines. A mass of youth from across Canada will gather, flowing through the streets of the capital like a river and surrounding decision makers like an ocean. And, just like the roar of the Ottawa river I pass every day on my bike, the Prime Minister will have no choice but to hear us on the 24th.
Join me, join us as we tell the self-appointed minister of youth what youth actually care about.