Protest for climate change action draws support, raises awareness
By Darren Lum
Published March 26, 2019
People showed their support for the climate change rally on Friday outside the Dysart township office by honking their horns and bringing hot chocolate to the participants of the student-led event.
High school student Jürgen Shantz, 16, led the protest that lasted most of the day and attracted about 40 people.
He has this message for the public:
“It’s kind of their responsibility to help out. You don’t have to. You might not [help] and think it’s not important. Years later down the line your children, your nephews – you might not have children – your grandchildren might ask you what the hell were those guys doing in [2019-2020]. They knew about this why didn’t they stop it and you have to say, ‘well, I knew and I didn’t do anything.’ You kind of have to live with that unless you don’t show up,” he said.
Some of the ideas he’d like to see include green programs for the town, the elimination of single-use water bottles at his high school, reducing plastic use and increasing solar panel installation on building for green energy.
Jürgen said he was motivated to protest because of Swedish teen activist Greta Thunberg.
Thunberg began her strike last August, standing outside the Swedish Parliament on Fridays instead of attending school to deliver her message to decision makers to act now to combat climate change.
There has been an estimated million climate strikers around the world, who have taken up Thunberg’s fight. She has also been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. If she wins, she will be the youngest recipient ever.
Thunberg has spoken at climate rallies, the United Nations, the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland and been featured on TED talks.
Jurgan said he learned of Thunberg with an online article, which led him to listen to her speak in a TED talk on YouTube.
“Near the end, she was talking to her grandchildren about doing the best she could. I want to do the same thing, being like, ‘yeah, I tried my best guys.’”
As far as anyone questioning why he isn’t in school, choosing instead to stand in front of the township office building, he says: “Do I really need to be in school if in 50 years down the line I have a cool job, but all my children [aren’t] going to ... live in a place worth living? That’s not worth it. I feel like this is more important than school at this point.”
This was Jürgen’s first attempt at organizing anything like this, he said. He was ready to stand alone, but was pleased by the large group that assembled with him.
He was joined by a few members of the Concerned Citizens of Haliburton County, area residents and a large group of home-schoolers and their parents and guardians.
The group was armed with placards of different sizes and colours, passion to raise awareness for climate change and a desire to act. They chanted, “honk for our environment.”
Bonnie Roe of the Concerned Citizens, which is a group interested in advocating for the environment, social justice and youth engagement, said they had been interested in organizing a demonstration like this. However, they wanted to ensure it was student led and when they learned of Jürgen’s idea of a protest, came to support.
MPP Laurie Scott, Dysart Mayor Andrea Roberts and Councillor John Smith met with Jürgen at the township office. They offered support and credit to him for his efforts.
Smith, who is the chairperson of the environment and climate change committee for the township, spent time with Jürgen asking questions, crediting him for his effort and telling him about ideas he’s heard of.
Roberts, who said she met with Jürgen and the young protesters, said the township is working to eliminate single-use water bottles in facilities, has provided staff with refillable water containers and has put forth a plan to purchase four water refill machines, similar to what is available at the high school.
Although Jürgen was disappointed with the lack of other teenagers, he appreciated the children and youth who came, some as young as six.
“I’m very happy about that. It’s super great to see little kids coming in or even just seeing that they care enough. It’s funny they seem to care more than the teenagers, but you know. I’m really happy to see that they are out here,” he said.
He plans to return for three more Fridays and is optimistic more people will come, particularly teens.
“I think a lot more people are going to show up next week and the week after that and hopefully we can build something,” he said.