In August of 2018, one Swedish teenager, Greta Thunberg, began to demonstrate every Friday to show the dangers of climate change. Her work evolved into a massive campaign movement called 'Fridays for Future', and inspired youth including Sudbury’s Sophia Mathur, who made Greater Sudbury the first city outside of Europe to join the movement in November 2018.
Now, four years later, Mathur and the Friday’s for Future crew continue to raise awareness and work for change. Mathur told Sudbury.com that while the event is a time to celebrate success, there is much more work to do.
“We don't want to celebrate like an eighth, ninth or ten-year anniversary,” Mathur told Sudbury.com. “I feel like a lot of people always say, ‘we're glad the youth are doing something’, but we the youth are asking the adults to do something about this. We can't vote yet. We can’t do much other than hold these events. But we're glad that the politicians are here today saying that they want to take action.”
Those politicians promising action were speakers Mayor Brian Bigger and Nickel Belt MPP, France Gélinas. (Nickel Belt MP Marc Serré was unable to attend but asked to have his speech read.)
Mathur said while she hoped to influence, she never thought she would be working towards change on a level that would include “suing the government.”
On Monday, Sept. 12, the Mathur et al case against the government of Ontario will go to trial. Alongside six other youth and the Ecojustice Law firm, Mathur said they are using their rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights of Freedoms to fight for a liveable future for all.
The event also featured a rendition of “Over the Rainbow” by Maryn Tarini of YES Theatre and a speech from activist Sharon Roy, speaking of the need to save the Laurentian University greenspace, currently in the crosshairs of the University’s insolvency process.
Bigger told the group, “We will do everything that we could possibly do to protect the conservation lands in and around Laurentian University,” and that he will support the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty.
Bigger told Sudbury.com he plans to bring the treaty to council, a global initiative to phase out fossil fuels and support a just transition.
“I'm hoping that our city council will support the Non-Proliferation Treaty,” said Bigger. “It falls directly in line with all of the strategies that we've developed and so strongly supported up to now and continues on that support and our commitment.”
The event also featured the debut of a new dance to the song “In the Anthropocene” by Nick Mulvey, originally performed at a COP26 artist event in Glasgow that included Mathur. The Anthropocene Epoch is an unofficial unit of geologic time used to describe the most recent period in Earth’s history when human activity started to have a significant impact on the planet’s climate and ecosystems.
There was also a display of artwork including a new ‘Parachute for the Planet’ and the announcement about their upcoming call to action on Sept. 23; held at Founders’ Square at Laurentian University, with details to follow.
Gélinas told Sudbury.com that she has always found the Fridays for Future teens inspiring, organized and determined.
“We are very fortunate to have them in our community,” Gélinas said. “They have helped change people's opinions, they have helped educate people about the environment in a way that as a politician, I would have never been able to do.”
She said the best way for her constituents to support these youth and climate action is to “speak up.”
“Don't hesitate to write to the premier, write to the environment minister and copy me in, be specific as to what you think the government should do and push it forward,” she said. “We live in a democracy, and when enough people speak with one voice, we will get there.”
Mathur, for her part, would like elected representatives to work together, rather than in partisanship.
“When it comes to climate change, it's something that everyone has to work together on; no matter what party wins, no matter what politicians are, we still need people to work together, we still do climate action. I want to hear politicians talk about climate change less as if they're trying to promote their party, but more as if they're trying to get action and save our future.”
Bigger added that while people are the problem, people are also the solution. “All of these young people are so committed to the environment that they're going to live in and we as a community need to support this initiative.
For more information about Fridays for Future Sudbury, click here.
Jenny Lamothe is a reporter with Sudbury.com. She covers the diverse communities of Sudbury, especially the vulnerable or marginalized, including the Black, Indigenous, newcomer and Francophone communities, as well as 2SLGBTQ+ and issues of the downtown core.