students climate rally
Students Natalie Geldart, Anna Crossley and Allison Vliet helped lead a climate strike in Duncan on Sept. 24, 2021. Photo by Philip McLachlan/The Discourse
Cowichan Valley

IN PHOTOS: Cowichan students strike for climate action

Over 100 people rallied in downtown Duncan on Sept. 24
Philip McLachlan September 24, 2021

High school students walked out of school and marched on Duncan City Square on Friday, Sept. 24 to call for urgent action on climate change. 

The event was organized by the Cowichan Valley Earth Guardians, a group of youth activists. The strike was part of a movement called Fridays for Future, started in 2018 by Swedish teen Greta Thunberg when she refused to attend school and instead sat outside Swedish Parliament to call for stronger climate action.

When the Cowichan students gathered on Friday, they joined thousands around the world, including Thunberg, who spoke to a crowd in Berlin.

In Duncan, students took the mic to speak, some through speech, some through spoken word and others through song. Some simply stood, masks on, holding signs urging action.

“This strike is taking place in a very new time, a very different world. But climate justice is more important than ever. We need to bring these concerns back to the forefront,” said Cowichan Valley Earth Guardians leader, climate activist and student, Ellie Barnhart.

“We will continue our work as long as we have people supporting us.”

“This is my home, this is your home, this is our home. A place we must take care of, a place that the future needs to see. A world with no home, isn’t a world at all, it’s just as lost as the future here we take for granted,” said Allison Vliet, pictured above, when she spoke on stage. 

“There is no home No. 2, there is only the home we stand on, the one worth saving. The leaders, the people, the society, working together to save this. We must do it together, this right here under my feet.”

Young and old gathered at Duncan City Square, some standing in silence, others chanting along with those on stage. Some sat, while others stood, carrying signs. Those speaking ranged in age from early teens to those well into retirement. 

“I’m very passionate about this injustice, and I believe that we need to put in everything that we can with our souls and our voices into this cause,” said Natalie Geldart, who performed the song “Black” by Pearl Jam.

A student carries a sign that reads, “Protect Old Growth Forests.” Nearby, other students display messages that point to a grim future without more action against climate change. 

“There is no economy on a dead planet,” reads a sign held by Anna Crossley, a student at Frances Kelsey Secondary School.

Cobble Hill resident and activist David Slade urged those gathered at Duncan City Square to raise their voices and join him in fighting against climate change. 

“Please, let’s all take our responsibility seriously and do everything that we can, raise the bar for ourselves, raise the bar for those people around us and particularly those people in positions of power, who have the ability to make the change that we need to see.”

The Cowichan Valley Earth Guardians have led previous climate strikes in Duncan. In 2019, youth demanded a seat at a table and spoke to the mental and physical health impacts of climate change.


All photos by Philip McLachlan/The Discourse