Emily Wilson, News Reporter
Chants of Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg’s name “Gre-ta! Gre-ta! Gre-ta!” echoed off the pink sandstone of the Ontario legislature.
Thousands of demonstrators — mostly young — congregated on the lawns in front of the building at Queen’s Park and beyond. And colourful protest signs blossomed like springtime tulips.
The youth of Toronto, like many young people around the world, turned out in throngs on Sept. 27 to demand action on climate change at an event Humber College’s Devon Fernandes called this generation’s Woodstock.
And like the 1969 concert, the protests signified the beginning of a power shift.
“We’re not going to see change immediately,” said the college’s sustainability specialist. “The system has to change first.”
The world-wide event helped make celebrities of 16-year-old Thunberg and Canada’s own Autumn Peltier, the 15-year-old water activist from Wiikwemkoong Unceded Territory who was named water commissioner for Anishinabek Nation, an advocacy group of 50 First Nations in Ontario.
“We can no longer continue with business as usual,” said the Facebook page of Fridays for Future Toronto. “This is a crisis. Our governments need to treat the climate crisis like the emergency it is.”
Indigenous communities lead the march, which also included infants and the elderly, down Bay Street, frequently stopping to form a drum circle.
Ryan Kroon, a Humber Arboriculture Apprenticeship graduate, attended the strike, which he says is unusual for him.
“I am not normally a protester but this one I am passionate about,” he said.
The Toronto native, who now studies at Ryerson University in the Environment and Urban Sustainability program, said his home is along a ravine in the city and wants future generations to experience the joy of nature like he did.
Fernandes said it was empowering to see so many people at the strike who are committed to addressing climate and injects a sense of urgency into public discourse on the environment.
“Many students are interested in sustainability and think they are helping but getting feedback on ways to contribute will open the conversation,” he said.
Fernandes said being open to different ways of looking at things can shape how people view their contributions.
“Traditional environmentalism” of reducing waste and paper are the best first ways of contributing and being more energy efficient by walking, biking or using public transit whenever possible, he said.
Going to protests are just one way for people to get involved, along with voting, Fernandes said.
Politicians now campaigning for the Oct. 21 election could hardly fail to get the message about a new generation’s priorities.
“Passion drives people,” he said.