Hundreds of young people gathered on Earth Day in East Vancouver to let their elders know of their concerns about oil tankers, climate change, deforestation, and the unethical treatment of animals.
"I'm here because I really care about the future of our planet," Alice Paul, a student at Sir Winston Churchill secondary, told the Georgia Straight. "It's great to be in an environment where I can celebrate it."
Her friend Elydah Joyce echoed her message, describing the annual Earth Day march to Grandview Park as an important event. "It's definitely something I love to support," Joyce said.
One of the event's organizers, Windermere secondary student Lucas Chan, pointed to a windmill made by students of recycled materials. It was towed in the march by bicycles.
"We're here to show that youth are both aware and concerned about the direction our planet is moving in," Chan told the Straight. "And we want to move towards a more sustainable economy with greener energy and a more sustainable lifestyle."
He added that tankers pose a threat to marine ecosystems, as well as to the land. He predicted that an oil spill would be "inevitable" at some point if pipeline capacity is expanded and more oil is transported across B.C. waters.
His friend Ethan Trinh, also a Windermere student, dismissed the idea that consuming more oil was necessary to power the global economy. He suggested that relying on more fossil fuels can destroy jobs and ecotourism, not to mention thousands of years of human culture and tradition.
Windermere secondary students Lucas Chan and Ethan Trinh explain why they helped organize the event.
There were also older activists in the crowd, including oil-tanker opponent and author Rex Weyler. He told the Straight that Canada is becoming a petrostate, which carries worrisome implications.
"We're slowly realizing—or we should be quickly realizing—that our government has been taken over by big oil," Weyler claimed. "Our media seems to be mostly taken over by big oil. Our policy, our national policy, seems to be taken over by oil. We have become a petrostate like Nigeria and Sudan."
This concept of a petrostate has been explored in such books as Petrotyranny (Dundurn, 2000) by historian John Bacher, and Tar Sands: Dirty Oil and the Future of a Continent (Greystone, 2008) by Calgary journalist Andrew Nikiforuk.
Weyler explained that when oil companies want to exploit a country's natural resources, they try to control the levers of political power.
He noted that Kinder Morgan's application to sharply increase its capacity by twinning its pipeline to the Lower Mainland raises the risk of an oil spill because of increased tanker traffic.
But Weyer said the future of Canadian democracy is also on the line as this country becomes a bigger exporter of petroleum products.
"When a nation becomes a petrostate, money pours in from the oil companies to manipulate political parties, like they have done with the Conservatives and [Stephen] Harper—to finance the politicians that will go along, to buy off the opposition as they're trying to do with the First Nations, to buy the media, control the media," Weyler alleged. "They run these disinformation campaigns like they've done with the so-called ethical-oil campaign. Then they target environmental groups. They're doing all the things that they do in Nigeria, Sudan, and Southeast Asia when they take over a country."
Despite the seriousness of the message, the event included lots of festivities, including some joyful music from the Carnival Band (see video below).
The Carnival Band provided some musical entertainment.
The images below give you an idea of what things were like near the Commercial Drive SkyTrain station just before the march to Grandview Park.
Follow Charlie Smith on Twitter at twitter.com/csmithstraight.