VANCOUVER — Swedish activist Greta Thunberg says those in power need to realize what they are doing to future generations through climate change because if adults really loved children, they would ensure they have a safe future.
“But they are not doing that,” she told thousands of people attending a climate rally in Vancouver on Friday. “As it is now, it feels like they are doing the opposite.”
Thunberg said adults “change the subject” when the climate comes up.
The 16-year-old expressed her amazement at the size of the crowd, sharing that police said there were 15,000 people in attendance.
“Together, we will make a change,” she said to cheers and applause.
The crowds included many children and teenagers with their parents, crammed into a public square outside the Vancouver Art Gallery in the city’s downtown. They carried signs saying, “Greta thinks you can do betta,” and “You’ll die of old age, we’ll die of climate change.”
Thunberg said global carbon dioxide emissions have increased by 65 per cent since 1992.
“If world leaders would have started to take action back then when this crisis became known to them, then imagine the suffering that could gave been prevented,” she said.
“It is the year 2019 and people are still acting like there is no tomorrow.”
She also warned that today’s youth will hold older generations accountable.
“We are not just some kids skipping school or some adults not going to work. We are a wave of change and together we are unstoppable.”
Thunberg also said she stands in solidarity with 15 young people who announced a lawsuit on Friday against the Canadian government over climate change.
The event was billed as a “post-election climate strike.” Sustainabiliteens, a youth-led group, has been staging Fridays for Future rallies inspired by climate protests Thunberg launched last year outside the Swedish Parliament.
Organizers said they want Justin Trudeau’s government to create a ‘Green New Deal’ that puts science-aligned emission reduction targets into legislation.
Several Indigenous advocates spoke to the crowd. Cedar George-Parker of the Tulalip and Tsleil-Waututh Nations said the $4.5 billion the federal government used to buy the Trans Mountain pipeline would have been better spent on providing university education to young Canadians.
He said the pipeline expansion threatens the already endangered southern resident killer whales as well as, in the event of a spill, human health.
“That’s why we say no means no. That’s why we come out here and stand up.”
Kanahus Manuel of the Tiny House Warriors, a group of Indigenous demonstrators who have built tiny homes in the path of the pipeline in B.C.’s Interior, told the young people in the crowd that the future is in their hands.
“You take that courage. You keep on fighting, because the old people are going to be gone,” she said.
“Oil and gas, that Old Boys club, is going to be gone, out the door.”
Manuel led the crowd in a chant of “Water is Life.”
Ella Scott, 16, was among the teenagers who attended the rally. She said it was important to stand up and show the Trudeau government that young people care about the climate.
“We need to fix it now or else it’s going to be too late,” she said.
“They’re worrying about money and the economics of Canada but we also need to worry about our future and climate. … If we destroy the climate it doesn’t matter how much money we have, because we can’t buy our way out of global warming.”
Scott also praised Thunberg for leading the climate movement despite some criticizing her.
“People say it shouldn’t be the youth of Canada and it shouldn’t be a teenage girl representing the climate,” she said. “But I think someone had to do it.”
Thunberg is touring Western Canada and attended a climate rally in Edmonton last week that attracted thousands of people to the lawn of the Alberta legislature. The group calling for climate action vastly outnumbered oil-and-gas industry supporters who showed up.