On Oct. 6, protesters flooded downtown Montreal and Centre-Sud to voice their frustrations with Premier-designate François Legault’s weak stance on environmental issues. Legault is facing immense backlash regarding his plans to further Hydro-Québec development, his support of fossil fuel exploitation in Quebec, and his overall indifference toward the pressing topic of climate change. This protest should inspire the youth of Montreal, including McGill students, to join the fight against policy-makers whose decisions threaten the planet’s future.
The hundreds of protestors could not have acted at a more appropriate time: Less than 48 hours after the manifestation, as if to confirm protestors’ frustrations, The Guardian released an article warning that only 12 years remain to limit the devastating effects of climate change. The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report stresses that if the global average temperature increase is not held between 1.5 and two degrees celsius within this period, major natural disasters, unprecedented mass extinctions, and increased poverty for hundreds of millions are anticipated in the coming decades.
Rising global temperatures can only be constrained with the support and effort of governments. Adapting to the Impacts of Climate Change, a consensus study report by the National Academies Press, suggests tangible ways in which governments can create smart and sustainable policies. For example, it suggests that governments consider ‘mainstreaming’ the concept of climate change adaptation into current government programs, as the Canadian federal government has done since 2011. In addition, focus should shift toward the implementation of climate-resilient systems in all public works. This would mean building a resilient framework for land use planning; sustainable water, energy, and wastewater systems; improved public transportation, and infrastructure. Communities must continue to pressure policy-makers to effect change, as reformation is required at a structural level.
Climate change is a particularly-pertinent topic for young people, whose lifetimes will endure the brunt of its disastrous implications. Youth and students are at the dawn of their formative years of social and political engagement. Voting with environmental factors in mind, becoming more educated on the topic of climate change, and even joining protests and activist groups to influence policy-makers should be the take-home message from Montreal’s protest of the CAQ government. The more informed today’s youth is about the necessity of government-led action, the louder their voices will resound.
McGill has a myriad of pro-sustainability groups and initiatives. Examples like Greening McGill and the Student’s Society of McGill University (SSMU) Environment Committee promote activism and awareness of environmental issues on campus. Groups like Gorilla Composting on Macdonald Campus, provide composting services to students. These student-led groups offer the chance to become more familiar with sustainable practices and policies. They also facilitate engagement in activism on campus and in Montreal with the support of peers. Whether it’s joining a student group or joining a protest, any form of activism contributes to the greater good.
Montreal’s protest for better environmental policy is an important step in the right direction. With 12 years remaining to limit global warming before it causes irreversible damage, it has never been more important for young people to pressure policy-makers into prioritizing this issue. The time to join a student-club, make sustainable lifestyle choices, cast an educated vote, and, most importantly, push back against government action that negatively affects our futures, is now.