Trailblazers 2019: Rebecca Hamilton leads Vancouver teens in fight against climate insanity of older generations

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      This month, the concentration of carbon-dioxide-equivalent concentration in the atmosphere exceeded 415 parts per million, according to measurements taken at the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii.

      That exceeded anything during the past 800,000 years, setting the stage for more catastrophic hurricanes, wildfires, and floods in the years to come.

      Yet this hasn't stopped the Canada Gas & LNG Exhibition and Conference from going ahead this week at the Vancouver Convention Centre.

      But this year, the attendees were in for a surprise when a group of Vancouver teens and their allies showed up to stage a "funeral for their future". It occurred on May 21 as a result of the delegates' zeal for fossil-fuelled power.

      Organizer Rebecca Hamilton, a 16-year-old student at Lord Byng secondary, appealed to the executives and government reps to think about the world that they were creating for their children.

      Hamilton has also organized four climate strikes from classrooms since December to demand a stronger response from older generations. She's part of a group called Sustainabiliteens.

      At a May 3 school walkout, she told the Straight that she was inspired by Swedish teenager and climate activist Greta Thunberg, who has launched the “Fridays for the future” campaign to mobilize students to hold peaceful strikes.

      “Her actions really resonated with me because she was taking action with the scale and urgency required,” Hamilton said. “She was saying, ‘I’m stepping out of my daily life; we need to prioritize climate action.’ ”

      Rebecca Hamilton spoke at the last students' climate strike in Vancouver on May 3.
      Charlie Smith

      According to Hamilton, her parents support her enthusiasm for reducing greenhouse-gas emissions, though they wish she placed a greater priority on her schoolwork. However, she told the Straight that nothing else matters if the planet is “destroyed”.

      “This needs to be our number one priority,” Hamilton said.

      After she graduates from high school, she hopes to focus on interdisciplinary environmental studies in university. Hamilton would also like to live on a permaculture farm as she continues to try to address the climate crisis.

      She revealed that she hasn’t encountered serious opposition to her activism on behalf of the planet but that sometimes people tell her that she should wait until she’s older to do this work.

      Hamilton believes that anyone who makes these comments doesn’t understand the urgency of the situation, nor do they appreciate the power of youth.

      The next big student climate strike in Vancouver is scheduled for September 27.

      She and her friends are also mobilizing for the upcoming federal election scheduled for October 21, hoping to draw attention to $3.3 billion in annual federal subsidies to the fossil-fuel sector every year.

      According to Hamilton, the election will be a referendum on climate action.