Youths will lead Vancouver Earth Day parade on Commercial Drive

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      The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says the scientific evidence for the warming of the world's climate system is unequivocal.

      Global sea level rise over the past two decades has been double that recorded in the previous century.

      The Earth's average surface temperature is 1.1 degrees Celsius above what it was at the start of the Industrial Revolution.

      Glaciers are retreating, the thickness and extent of ice is receding in the Arctic Ocean, ice sheets are losing mass in Greenland and Antarctica, and more extreme weather events are pulverizing communities around the world.

      This has all been linked to rising levels of greenhouse gases being released into the atmosphere by human activity.

      So on this Earth Day (April 22), youths will lead a colourful march down Commercial Drive and hold a festival at Grandview Park to motivate the public and politicians to take this global crisis more seriously.

      The parade starts at 1 p.m. at Commercial Drive and Broadway. At 2 p.m., a free three-hour festival will be held in Grandview Park to celebrate the Earth.

      Indigenous activists have led B.C.'s opposition to the Kinder Morgan pipeline project.
      Amanda Siebert

      The annual event is being organized by Youth for Climate Justice Now and features performances by Corinna Keeling, Ta'kaiya Blaney, Chris Tait, Geoff Berner, and East Van Marimba All Stars.

      “I want all youth to realize the importance of their voices and the impact they carry,” Youth for Climate Justice Now member Angus Ho said in a news release. “We have so much potential to be initiators of positive change in our community.”

      The Wilderness Committee, CUPE Local 15, Stand, Britannia Community Services Centre, ArtStarts, and the Vancouver school board are supporting the event.

      Speakers include Grand Chief Stewart Phillip; indigenous activists Ta’Kaiya Blaney, Cedar George-Parker, and Kat Norris; UBC350's Kate Hodgson, and the Wilderness Committee's Peter McCartney.

      UBC350's Kate Hodgson was one of thousands who put enough pressure on Justin Trudeau to stop the Northern Gateway project from proceeding.

      Parker-George and Hodgson explained how they became committed environmentalists at a very young age in a Georgia Straight feature article in December.

      Parker George said that the turning point for him came when he spoke to an indigenous grandmother who bathed her baby with bottled water because petroleum had contaminated her local water supply.

      “It changed my life,” he said. “It’s changed my outlook on how oil is extracted and how it’s affecting this country and this economy.”

      Hodgson was influenced by a former Youth for Climate Justice Now leader to look at environmental issues through a global lens. It set her on a path to becoming one of the key organizers of a movement to try to persuade UBC to divest itself of investments in fossil-fuel companies.

      “I’m very scared of climate change,” Hodgson told the Straight in December. “And I’m really scared of what it means for my future and my generation and for the lives of people living all around the world who don’t have the means to protect themselves from its impact.”

      The Earth Day parade began in 2011 thanks to the efforts of then Windermere students (left to right) Cassandra Ly, Emily Chan, Brendan Chan, and Henry Tan.
      Matthew Burrows

      The annual Earth Day parade was launched as the first youth-for-youth environmental festival in 2011 by then Windermere secondary students Cassandra Ly, Emily Chan, Brendan Chan, and Henry Tan. They were assisted by environmentalist Ben West, who was then working for the Wilderness Committee, and East Vancouver artist Andrea Curtis.

      “We want to invite as many youth and families out to dress up in colourful, vibrant costumes, carry big posters, sing and chat, and bring creative pedal-powered floats along the parade on Commercial Drive,” Ly said at the time. “We want to empower youth to make a difference, and we want to demonstrate what our world can be like.”  

      Young people are going to have to live with the consequences of the decisions of federal politicians such as Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna (right), whose government supports the Kinder Morgan, Enbridge Line 3, and Keystone XL pipelines.