A rally took place last week outside of MP Michael Barrett’s office in downtown Kemptville, protesting a lack of action on climate change with a focus on recent wildfires that have caused poor air quality in the region. The group of protestors gathered in front of MP Barrett’s office at 10am on June 28, and then moved on to the intersection of Prescott and Clothier Streets to wave their signs as vehicles and pedestrians passed.
Times reporter Jen Gilroy was on site and described the atmosphere of the event as one of quiet determination and resolve – orderly, polite and very “civilized”, mixed with worry for our collective future. “There was also frustration and a thread of underlying anger at government talk about problems but not much measurable and impactful action to forge and implement solutions,” said Jen. “However, from some, I got a sense of hope too, that with a commitment to action and change, governments and ordinary people can still act and make a positive difference.”
Local Green Party of Ontario Constituency Association President Steve Gabell rang the bell and knocked on the door of MP Barrett’s office, though no one came out to acknowledge the group’s presence despite the lights being on inside. Steve lives in Kemptville. “I have a 3 year old, and it’s our children, our grandchildren and future generations that will be impacted by climate change,” Steve told the Times. “That’s a big part of my motivation. Having children made it much more personal. It’s not an intellectual thing. Now I’m much more connected to it. We’re here today to call for an end to fossil fuels and a transition to 100% clean energy.”
Steve describes “clean energy” as renewables, solar winds, geothermal technology and the storage of energy. “Nuclear may be an option too but that’s more controversial,” Steve added. “We’re here today because Canada is on fire. We need massive action. We’re in an emergency.”
Protesters could be heard repeating the rallying cry, “What do we want? Climate action! When do we want it? Now!” during the rally. The rally was associated with 350.org, described as “a people-powered movement for climate action.”
“I’m here to make myself heard by our politicians and support 350. org,” said Kars resident Nicky Trudell at the rally. “We need to help our politicians understand that the climate emergency will impact every part of our economy and the need for action is now. I just keep plugging away hoping for action from politicians.”
Kemptville resident Alex Leizert added: “I saw smog in town. My mom worries what my kids will grow up in if this is what I’m growing up in now.”
Kemptville climate change activist and doctor Sarah Tucker also attended the rally, joined by her two daughters, Elsa and Aimee Burns, aged 9 and 6 respectively. “I’m impatient with the lack of federal movement [on climate change],” said Sarah. “It’s creeping along at an unacceptably slow pace. I’m here for our kids. I’m also a doctor and see people suffering with the consequences of poor air quality. One in seven premature deaths in Canada are caused by [bad] air quality.”
Sisters Hannah and Kristen DeBeer came to the rally to show support as well. “We’ve been paying attention to the environment since we were kids,” Hannah told the Times. “[Things now] are looking bad. Every little bit of raising awareness matters because the government won’t do much on their own. They need to see that people need change.”
Kate Vieregge from Kemptville attended the rally with her young daughter Florence. “I’m here because I’m concerned about the world my kids are going to grow up in,” she said. “I’m also a community health nurse, so I see how much climate change is affecting more vulnerable people. Not having air conditioning when it’s 40 degrees and you can’t open your windows because there’s a severe air quality advisory – it creates a lot of stress, especially for people already living with a lot of stress.”
Michael MacIsaac, President of the local chapter of the Congress of Union Retirees of Canada, attended the rally and added to the commentary: “I’m here because I’m very concerned with inaction. We’re watching things happen like burning and [bad] air quality but there’s inaction. I belong to a local chapter of CURC and we’re quite concerned about climate action. We’ve done things like tree planting. I have twelve grandchildren and I just don’t know what kind of world they’ll have when they’re my age. We need to move faster. Quit the talk. Everybody has to take action. We need a whole effort by the whole community and all levels of government.”
For more information on 350.org, visit their website at https://www.350.org/canada/.