At Cowichan’s climate strike, youth demand a seat at the table

Last Friday, hundreds of local students walked out of school to gather with adult supporters in Duncan’s City Square for the Global Climate Strike. The Earth Guardians Cowichan Valley, a group of young people determined to have a say in the future of this place, led the event. 

Greta Thunberg, the Swedish teen activist, has sparked a global movement with the school strikes she began just one year ago. Millions around the world took to the streets last week.

I was at Friday’s strike in Duncan, along with David Minkow and Jenny Holden, who are supporting The Discourse’s work in Cowichan from now through December. The three of us spent some time talking to youth and asking them what adults can do to include youth in the conversation. Here’s some of what we heard.

Listen to us

“We just want people to hear us, really,” Jasmine Hachey, 15, told me. That was a common theme. If young people will be most affected by climate change, they should also have a say.

Journalists can help by listening to youth and helping to spread the word, Jasmine said. “Just collecting what the youth wants to say, and not altering it at all, and just being really raw with it. That’s just what we want.”

Tell us what’s happening, not what to believe

“I want to hear the truth so that I can make an informed decision on my own on what I want to do about it,” another student striker shared. “I want to hear ‘This is what is going on,’ instead of ‘This is what you should believe in.’”

“If you won’t act like adults, then we will.” Youth lead a climate strike in the Cowichan Valley on Sep. 20, 2019. Jacqueline Ronson/The Discourse

Give us a seat at the table

“I’m very concerned for my future. I don’t think it’s fair that people get to decide my future, and I don’t get to decide,” another teen said. “Once I grow up, I’m going to live in a world that I did not create. I want to change that so that I create it.”

In a speech, local teen Simon Minkow (David’s son, for the record) called for the voting age in B.C. to be lowered from 18 to 16. Several youth circulated a petition among the crowd calling for this.

And strikers demanded the attention of the Cowichan Valley Regional District. They chanted “CVRD, declare a climate emergency” outside CVRD offices. Board chair Ian Morrison greeted the strikers and said he would hear their concerns and take them to the rest of the board.

Help us share our stories

“Youth have good stories. They just need the platforms to be able to share it,” said 17-year-old Sierra Robinson, one of the climate strike’s lead organizers. Journalists can help, she told me, by giving young people a platform, or by teaching youth “how to talk to media, and how to strengthen their stories so that they can be the most impactful.”

At The Discourse, we try hard to include youth perspectives on Cowichan issues. But we can always do better. Do you know young people making a difference in this community? Tell us about them [end]

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