Students led a demonstration outside the Dysart et al municipal office to protest climate change inaction March 22.
More than 20 people participated in the demonstration, including high school and elementary school students, parents and concerned citizens. It was organized by Haliburton Highlands Secondary School student Jürgen Shantz, who was inspired by the strike of Swedish student Greta Thunberg.
Shantz said people need to take responsibility for climate change for the sake of the children of tomorrow.
“You might not think it’s important. But years later, down the line, your children, your nephews, your grandchildren, might ask you, ‘what the hell were those guys doing?’” Shantz said. “You have to say, ‘well, I knew, and I didn’t do anything.’ You kind of have to live with that unless you show up.”
Shantz, who skipped school to do the protest, said he intends to do it again for another three weeks. The action mimics Thunberg, who has become internationally recognized.
Shantz said he read through news stories about Thunberg and watched one of her speeches.
“Near the end, she was talking about talking to her grandchildren about doing the best she could,” Shantz said. “I want to do the same thing.”
A contingent from the advocacy group Concerned Citizens of Haliburton County also attended. Member Bonnie Roe said the demonstration increases awareness about the issue.
“There’s hope to get something going that’s bigger,” Roe said. “The momentum’s just going to increase.”
Parent Arlene Cochrane attended and said the children participating will learn that they can make a difference if they stand up.
“We’ve known it’s been an issue for very many years and it doesn’t seem anything is significantly changing,” Cochrane said. “Hopefully, the voices of children will help it escalate.”
The demonstration attracted the attention of municipal leaders. Dysart et al Mayor Andrea Roberts said she talked to demonstrators about what they would like to see her do.
“It’s nice to see young people get involved and take a stand on something,” Roberts said. “If we all did our part a little bit, we can make change.”
Dysart et al Environment Committee chair and Coun. John Smith approached Shantz and said he would like to work with him.
“Small steps, that’s what’s going to change the world,” Smith said to Shantz. “We’re building awareness right? That’s why I’d like to help you … Well done. Keep at it, don’t give up.”
Shantz said he would like to see serious action on a large scale, including at the municipal and provincial levels.
“I never thought of this as the most eco-friendly place, so it’s really cool to see people caring that much,” he said.
The protest continued on for a second consecutive week, with students again demonstrating outside the building March 29.