On Friday September 27th, approximately four thousand protesters amassed in front of the Memorial University’s clock tower to stand in solidarity with all those around the world who are protesting the lack of preventive measures regarding climate change.
Speeches were delivered on the steps of the University Centre by various organisations’ representatives, outlining the immediacy of policy needed for an issue that is not just global but also very close to the heart of many Newfoundlanders. Findings brought forth by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)’s and the Fridays for Future campaign highlight this urgent necessity if there is to be any restorative action for our planet. Closing down the eastbound lanes of Prince Phillip Drive, protesters marched to the steps of the Confederation Building for further demonstration.
With the impending federal election happening in the background of the strike, various politicians representing different ridings in the St. John’s and surrounding area were asked to present their individual stances on the problem of climate change. The audience called for action plans – not pleasantries but were let down when all parties failed to deliver any concrete climate action plan.
Noticeably absent was Newfoundland and Labrador’s Premier, Dwight Ball. The current Premier has faced many accusations of his lack of authenticity and dedication to any sustainable climate change plan. Organisers prepared a mass-email to be sent to the Premier, calling on him to take action and declare a climate emergency. This declaration will be used as the first step in terms of establishing a sustainable living action plan. While the crowd was eager to hear from the Premier on this front, the Mayor of St. John’s, Danny Breen later announced that he is going to put forth the notion to declare a climate emergency in municipal chambers.
While the stage is set for the strike to be enacted as a political adversary, what has now become the Climate Action Coalition has been working against Memorial University, for them as an institution to also make changes to combat the climate change crisis. Following federal legislation brought forward in 2008, by 2009, universities across the country were charged with creating Sustainability Action Plans. MUN’s Sustainability Office works to ensure that the procedures that were set up in this plan are followed and to encourage innovation and research in creating new ways to help the university become more environment-friendly.
However, this has proved to be insufficient so far. A pledge has been set forth by MUN student, faculty, and staff unions, calling on the University to agree to the following terms; first, declare a climate emergency, and second, to work with the Climate Action Coalition “to take meaningful action to meet IPCC targets.”
One of the faces behind the Climate Action Coalition, Simon Hofman, is a Marine Engineering student at Marine Institute. He has been advocating the enactment of a better sustainability policy but realises that all of his work is an unfortunate circumstance of the ignorance surrounding climate change. “We are at a critical point if we want our world to survive, and it’s sad that we have to be doing all of this work now in haste, when it should have been decades ago,” Hofman said. Thankfully, he says they know how to reach the solution – but it isn’t without help. “The only way to combat a problem as monstrous as climate change is to work through collective action. No one can do this alone, and we need to act like it.” The process will be long, and there is no simple pathway to success – but it can be achieved.
On Wednesday September 25th, the pledge was signed by University Leadership, along with the aforementioned unions but it still has a long way to go. It needs to be approved by the Board of Regents, and after that, the University Senate. With the enactment of the terms of the pledge, they are hoping it will influence politicians in the province to follow suit. A follow-up pledge is scheduled for November 1st, 2019.
For More Information on the Climate Action Coalition Email: