Support Youth Mobilising for a Just and Sustainable Future

As Pope Francis reminds us, the ecological crisis may be the most pressing challenge facing humanity: “Our sister Earth, along with all the abandoned of our world,” cries out and pleads “that we take another course” (LS 53). More recently, on September 1, the Pope released a message to inaugurate the Season of Creation (running to October 4) noting that “many young people all over the world are making their voices heard and calling for courageous decisions” and that this is the time “for undertaking prophetic actions.”

Over the past year, Fridays for Future, a global student movement started by Swedish student Greta Thunberg, has grown to include hundreds of thousands of students around the globe. Now, the movement is inviting others to join with them in a series of actions during the week of September 20-27, 2019, culminating in an Earth Strike on Friday, September 27.

Imagine what might happen if people from all walks of life put aside their work and commitments for one day to join a massive protest calling for urgent and comprehensive action to curb greenhouse gas emissions globally by 45% by 2030 – the minimum cut that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says is necessary to keep warming below the 1.5 C threshold and prevent catastrophic consequences.

Why is this important

As Pope Francis reminds us, the ecological crisis may be the most pressing challenge facing humanity: “Our sister Earth, along with all the abandoned of our world,” cries out and pleads “that we take another course” (LS 53). More recently, on September 1, the Pope released a message to inaugurate the Season of Creation (running to October 4) noting that “many young people all over the world are making their voices heard and calling for courageous decisions” and that this is the time “for undertaking prophetic actions.”

Like the multitudes of youth rising up in protest, we believe that we need to send a strong message to leaders in Canada and around the world that the time for meaningful action is now. The Jesuit Forum therefore urges you to take part in the strike on September 27, to spread the word to all you know, and to find ways to support students in your local community during the September 20-27 week of action.

How can I get involved?

Actions are being organised across Canada and around the world.

Here are some suggestions for supporting the strike at a local level:

  • Contact local organisers to find out what they are planning and how you can help. Many local groups are planning training sessions, public events, and marches.
  • Make sure to take part in the strike on September 27. Encourage your friends, family, colleagues, and co-workers to do the same. If you are a member of a union or professional organisation, encourage them to support the strike. If you are a teacher, find ways to support students taking part. If you own or work for a business, encourage them to close and take part in the strike for at least several hours on September 27.
  • In your parish or faith community, announce the strike and encourage participation in it. September is also the Season of Creation so liturgies and prayer services could be planned that focus on related themes. Kairos Canada also has a Climate Action Month during September. Kairos also has a climate strike prayer available for use.  
  • Organise an interfaith service or vigil in support of the strike. In Toronto, for example, Kairos is organising an interfaith vigil at Church of the Holy Trinity on Sunday 22 starting at 8 PM. Investigate if similar events are taking place in your area or, if nothing is planned, take the initiative to organise something.

What are some of the key demands of the students striking for climate action?

Students from Fridays for Future and Climate Strike Canada are calling for:

  • Canada to legislate a reduction to its greenhouse gas emissions by 65% by 2030 and reach net zero emissions by 2040. (The 65% target reflects that, as a high-emitting nation, Canada should make a greater contribution to the global 45% reduction goal.)
  • The rejection of new fossil fuel extraction or transportation projects.
  • The elimination of all fossil fuel subsidies.
  • A transition to renewable energy and a sustainable transportation infrastructure.
  • The right to a healthy environment be enshrined in law.
  • A full commitment and implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).
  • The conservation and protection of biodiversity and the protection of those communities most vulnerable to climate change.

Climate Strike Canada also endorses a Canadian Green New Deal, something the Jesuit Forum will examine in more detail in our upcoming issue of Open Space.

More Background

As Climate Strike Canada notes, “we are at a crossroads in the history of humanity, and the action we do or don’t take will determine the future of civilisation,” and indeed the future of much of life on the beautiful planet we call our home. At the same time, the movement seeks to “confront the scale of this crisis, and create a better world, by representing youth across Canada and cultivating a culture of compassion.”

In rising up to call for action, these youth recognise the link between sustainability and social justice, noting that “climate justice is about more than greenhouse gas emissions: it’s about workers’ rights and economic justice. It’s about the rights of Indigenous peoples and migrants. It’s about anti-racism and social justice. Each battle is entangled within another, and victory is only possible if we fight all of them as a unified entity.”

At the Jesuit Forum, we believe in “following the energy,” reading the signs of the times, and nurturing the seeds of transformation where they emerge. We see tremendous commitment and dedication in the youth striking, not only for their future, but the future of the entire Earth community. We urge you to join us in supporting this movement however you may.