Ottawa’s streets flood with a sea of green
The marchers halt as a moment of silence at the National War Memorial.
In October, Canadians made their demands for change heard at ballot boxes. This week they demanded change with their feet.
To usher in the UN Climate Summit in Paris, 25,000 people from across Eastern Canada flooded downtown Ottawa with a sea of green to inspire the new government to make Canadian energy 100 per cent clean by the year 2050.
The year 2050 became the target after studies showed that renewable energy was possible in less than 40 years. The 100% Possible Ottawa march from city hall to Parliament was one of 2,300 marches globally as millions filled major hubs like New York City and London.
Participants were asked to wear green and carry signs as they engaged in one of the largest protests in the history of Canada’s capital.
“Today we are all about what is 100 per cent possible – what yesterday didn’t feel so, but in fact, the future is very sunny,” said Joanna Kerr, executive director of Greenpeace Canada.
When the crowds arrived on Parliament Hill, over 6,000 people stood to form an enormous “100%” while the remaining masses filled the lawn to capacity. The 25,000 connected, pleading for their leaders to make a change – now.
Famous cities like San Francisco, Copenhagen and Las Vegas have all pledged to be 100 per cent clean by 2020, 2025 and 2017, respectively. Some of the world’s largest companies like Walmart, Nike and Starbucks have also promised to go green in the coming years.
John Stone, a Carleton University environmental studies professor, said that in order to move forward people need to resist the urge to buy new ‘stuff’. “When it comes to ‘stuff’, we are great hunters and gatherers, ” he said.
Spokespeople for the organizers, including Ecology Ottawa, said there are three keys to making Canada’s green dream a reality.
The first step, the removal of fossil fuels from the energy system, was realized in part last weekend as Alberta committed to do just that.
Second, electrifying transport, including monetary incentives for people buying electric cars. And lastly, big buildings need to retrofit their power sources to reduce emissions.
“The solutions exist, they are affordable, they are accessible. We are working towards a clean energy economy,” said Kerr.
Ottawa march organizer Jason Mogus said that science has proven the potency of these steps. He added that it’s a relief to have a new government that listens to scientists and “doesn’t make climate activists terrorists”. He said that technology no longer stands in the way of clean energy.
Critics argue that removing fossil fuels would quickly evaporate tens of thousands of jobs. While the oil sands are a big job creator in Canada, clean energy will create more than five times the number of existing fossil fuel placements.
Canada is quickly moving away from ‘old’ energy. In 2012 gas, coal and crude oil accounted for 90 per cent of Canada’s energy, but Ontario burned its last piece of coal that same year.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he wants to leave the French city of lights with a legally binding strategy, and promises that “Canada is back” to being an international clean energy superpower. Trudeau promised 2.65 billion dollars over five years to the UN climate fund just prior to the 12-day conference.
Paris was a large focus of the march, but not just for the world climate meeting. Following the terrorist attacks that killed 130 people, Paris cancelled its 100% Possible walk. “We march for Paris, we march for peace” said Mogus.
The lives lost in Paris made Ottawa marchers think about their own loved ones. An elderly couple clad in leprechaun green walked with fingers entwined, holding signs reading ‘We march for our grandchildren’.
“If you knew you could save life on earth, why wouldn’t that be your target?” added Mogus.
The climate change movement has been supported by celebrities like actress Emma Thompson, author Margaret Atwood and Ms. Universe Ashley Callingbull.