‘It’s both or neither’

Fridays for Future Manitoba protests seek climate action

In this archival Uniter photo from September 2019, protesters prepare signs for a Fridays for Future rally. (Photo by Daniel Crump)

In 2018, Greta Thunberg sat in front of the Swedish parliament every school day for three weeks to protest the lack of government action to mediate the climate crisis. Little did she know that this single decision would begin an awakening that is still circling the world more than four years later.

In September 2019, thousands gathered in front of the Manitoba Legislative Building to take part in a strike organized by Manitoba Youth for Climate Action. This event was one of the largest protests to ever take place in the city, but the urgency awakened in this moment seems to have since dissipated.

Pierce Marks Plikett is hoping to change this by beginning weekly protests on the Legislative grounds. Through these meetings, Plikett hopes to promote a “just transition from governments and companies to limit global warming to 1.5ºC and to promote equity including Indigenous solidarity.”

Yiseul Kang, an international student from Korea, says attending a climate protest was a clear choice. She was willing to skip class to show her support and learn more about Winnipeg’s community of conservationists.

“I want to be connected to other activists,” she says. “I want to know more about (the) real situation and major agenda in the movement.”

Plikett is the organizer of Fridays For Future Manitoba. He was inspired to create the Manitoba chapter of the global movement after recognizing a lack of action in the province.

“I know there’s people who care about this issue,” Plikett says, mentioning that his initial idea was to start a local chapter and launch social-media pages. “The more voices that are speaking about this issue, the more that will be done about it.”

The impacts of climate change on others drives Kang to action. “I can sympathize with the people suffering from climate change ... (while) I can afford (the cost of) living,” she says. “I feel guilty because it means that I have privilege.”

Whether someone is passionate about combating the climate crisis or simply learning more about the movement, Kang encourages everyone to attend the next Fridays for Future Manitoba gathering.

“I want to tell them it’s not (just) my problem. It’s our problem,” she says. “We are all connected, and our daily behaviours and choices are constantly affecting other beings in the world.”

For those unsure where to begin, Kang says to start by “acknowledging your positionality and privilege and taking action (wherever) you can. There are so many things that you can change. Listen to others and share your thoughts and power.”

Plikett adds that while it is easy to become overwhelmed, it’s important to maintain a positive outlook.

“I want you to know there is hope,” he says.

“The better things (become now), the better things will be for you and your family in the future. It’s in everyone’s interest to do everything they can towards mitigating climate change.”

It can be easy to lose sight of what action is needed on a provincial or municipal level, especially when people are bombarded with headlines describing a global climate collapse.

Close to home, Plikett mentions the Augmented Flow Program (AFP) on the Churchill River, which was the second largest commercial fishery in Manitoba. Since, the demand for profits has destroyed the local ecosystem.

He encourages local activists to demand responsibility from those in positions of power. One way to do so is by signing petitions, like the one against silica sand mining.

“It’s (at) risk (of) contaminating the groundwater,” he says. “Silica particulates when it gets into the atmosphere. (It) can cause lung disease. It’s similar to asbestos.”

Plikett says the federal government should find new jobs for those who currently work in oil and gas industries and stresses the importance of including everyone as communities transition away from using these resources.

“We can’t have it both ways,” he says. “(It’s) helping people and the planet, not one or the other. It’s both or neither.”

Sign petitions and find information about the movement on Twitter at @for_manitoba. Plikett and other Fridays for Future members meet west of the Manitoba Legislative Building from 12 to 1:30 p.m. every Friday.

Published in Volume 77, Number 05 of The Uniter (October 6, 2022)

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