Aidan Kenny has a cheerful outlook that belies the seriousness of the work he and his peers have in front of them.
He’s one among countless students around the globe who want to see an end to the inaction around climate change, and will be walking out of classes Friday to make sure their concerns are heard.
Kenny, a UBC Okanagan student working in conjunction with environmentally minded high school students from schools across the region, has planned a peaceful march from Kerry Park to Stuart Park to raise awareness about climate issues in the Okanagan.
There will be some speech making, success stories will be shared and they’re going to press political leaders to push toward a more sustainable Kelowna for all.
“I think it’s important for us because it’s the biggest problem we face as a generation right now. It’s such a far-reaching issue—there’s nobody it’s not going to impact,” said Kenny.
“I think climate change something we all know about and something that’s been happening for so long without (enough) action from governments and business groups. Inaction today will cause more damage along the way.”
Kenny’s generation of Okanaganites have seen spring and summer renamed flood and fire season, and they’ve grown used to the sight of smoke rolling over the valley as thousands of hectares of forest go up in smoke.
That said, there’s not a feeling of hopelessness among his peers.
“I think we all have the capability to affect change and having youth, not just from Kelowna, B.C. or Canada, all say, ‘We are all going to speak together — it’s really powerful,’” he said.
One of the more long-term goals Kenny said the group wants to see come from the youth movement is seeing Indigenous people have a more active role in discussions on mitigating climate change. For Friday, however, he’d like to see a big crowd.
“This event is youth focused, but it’s important that we see friends and parents, aunts and uncles, show their support, too,” he said. “The more support we have, the more of an impact we can make.”
The students encourage those who attend to listen to a lineup of local speakers and memorialize the moment by joining our climate ribbon ritual—a symbolic art project— at the event.
The walks are being held across the globe and were sparked by Greta Thunberg, a 15-year-old Swedish student, who in August 2018 started an international movement of students by deciding to protest climate change instead of going to class.
“Greta and so many that have followed her lead since then know that our planet has only a short time left before climate inaction will cause major changes to Earth as we know it. The effects of climate change can already be witnessed around the world,” reads a statement from the Kelowna group.