Students rally to fight climate change

Jacqueline Shen, a Grade 12 student at Burnaby South secondary school, shows off the pledge signed by Burnaby-Edmonds MLA Raj Chouhan to commit the British Columbia
Jacqueline Shen, a Grade 12 student at Burnaby South secondary school, shows off the pledge signed by Burnaby-Edmonds MLA Raj Chouhan to commit the British Columbia's targets for reducing greenhouse gases by 33 per cent by 2020. She was part of a province-wide student movement to hold politicians accountable for climate change.

Jacqueline Shen isn’t old enough to vote. But she still wants to hold politicians accountable for the decisions they make that will affect the environment.

That’s why the Burnaby South Grade 12 student was amongst a group of 20 young people who met with Burnaby-Edmonds MLA Raj Chouhan last week to urge him to stand up for the provincial government’s commitment made in 2007 to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 33 per cent by 2020.

Similar groups met with MLAs around the province as part of the Defend our Future campaign, a youth-led initiative aiming to draw attention to the threat that new fossil fuel development, like the expansion of B.C.’s natural gas industry, poses to those carbon emissions targets.

Shen admits climate change and greenhouses gases aren’t typical topics of conversation in the school cafeteria, but as she started educating herself about the issues that will affect her quality of life in the future, she found her friends getting more interested.

“The things we talk about may seem more immediate,” she said. “But once a small group gets involved, others get curious.”

Social media like Twitter and Facebook were also a boon to mobilize interest said Shen, who even conducted an online orientation to share what she’d learned.

The delegation that visited Chouhan’s office included students from South, Burnaby North, Central, Moscrop and Alpha secondary schools. They all canvassed their schools to collect names on a petition and presented Chouhan with a pledge to sign affirming his commitment to fight against climate change.

And that voice made an impression, said Chouhan.

“It gave me hope for our future,” said the NDP MLA who had no problem signing the students’ pledge. But to win their favour, and soon their votes, the politicians will have to turn their words into action, said Shen.

“They have a responsibility to carry through,” she said.


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