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Young Climate Justice Activists Send Vancouver a Message

August 5, 2020

Loud, colourful demands for a Green, Just Recovery now visible around the city in the form of posters and street chalk.


The traditional and unceded territories of the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh, Səl̓ílwətaʔ/Selilwitulh and xʷməθkʷəy̓əm peoples (Vancouver, BC) — Today, posters and chalk filled the city, catching the attention of residents and politicians alike with messages such as “Normal was a crisis, we're not going back,” and “Your bamboo straws won’t save us,” referencing the need for the COVID recovery to bring systemic change. QR codes line the posters, inviting young people to join the movement and share their vision of building a more just and sustainable world.


With talk about recovering and being back to “normal,” Sustainabiliteens Metro Vancouver’s climate justice organization, best known for their climate strikes that brought millions of Canadians out onto the streets are now calling people’s attention to the fact that they see bright and clear: “normal” was a crisis. How governments at every level plan their COVID recovery, and what actions they take or do not take, could be a dealbreaker for the future the youth movement will inherit.


“Huge corporations and the wealthy elite are fighting hard to go right back to normal because normal made them wealthy and powerful, at the expense of everyone else. But what if, instead of this, we could build something new, something better, from the rubble this crisis leaves behind? It all starts with not going back,” says Lilah Williamson, Sustainabiliteens Central Team.


United by a shared feeling of urgency to stop climate catastrophe and by a shared vision to create a more just and sustainable world, their purpose is to leverage youth power and advocate for deep systemic change, driving the fight against the climate crisis and social injustice and demanding a better future through mass non-cooperation, campaigns and political outreach.


The COVID-19 pandemic may have been a setback to their climate strikes, but they continued to remain active internally via online platforms such as Zoom and Slack and on their social media, spreading awareness, training new members, adapting to the new circumstances and planning to come back stronger. Today’s activities mark the start of a long-term, post-COVID movement as they raise their voices to demand climate action and climate justice: that is, a world where clean air and water will forever be abundant, a world where there is equity and mutual respect, a world where youth are empowered, and a world where human lives -- white or BIPOC -- are valued more than profit, and where no one is left behind.


“We are moving to mass non-cooperation in the fall along with the entirety of Climate Strike Canada. So this is the first action around not going back to normal. From now on our actions will entail demanding a new normal,” explains Zoe Ng, Sustainabiliteens regional and outreach coordinator, about the future plans.


Today they show the world who they are and what they stand for, and until they see the broken system their future will inherit fixed, until they see climate justice, the fight will not end.