For 10 minutes on Wednesday, more than 350 Oak Bay High students sat riveted as they watched slide after slide of impending doom, catastrophe and apocalypse.
“You could hear a pin drop,” said Judy Fainstein, who delivered the evidenced-based Truth in Action presentation on Earth’s impending climate crisis. Fainstein is the lead mentor with the B.C. chapter of Climate Reality, the Al Gore-initiated organization which began in 2006 and created 24 Hours of Reality as a flagship event, held Nov. 20-21 this year.
The images and facts were grim enough to keep a room full of squirmy teenagers too uncomfortable to even cough.
Luckily, it only lasted 10 minutes. At that point Stefan Jonsson, also of Climate Reality Canada, turned the presentation into an inspiring message of good news and climate solutions already underway.
“Don’t worry, we have the solutions,” Jonsson said. “We are exceeding our expectations in solar and wind.
“Can we change? Yes. Will we change? That’s the question.”
The presentation was followed by a panel that included 16-year-old Emma Jane Burian of View Royal and 14-year-old Grace Sinats of Claremont secondary school, who held their own with climate scientist Andrew Weaver, the Oak Bay-Gordon Head MLA. They fielded questions from Oak Bay High students and a class of Mark Neufeld’s visiting International Global Studies students from Claremont secondary, a program Sinats is also in.
It was the first time Burian (Grade 11) and Sinats (Grade 9) have been on a panel in front of an audience. The two are part of Climate Strike Victoria organizing group, Our Earth, Our Future.
“We’ll be striking again Friday at Centennial Square in Victoria,” Burian said.
As a practiced politician, Weaver launched into the first question and left Burian and Sinats to follow. And without intimidation, they did.
Burian worked in a good analogy that before Canada can encourage other countries to minimize their GHG emissions it’s up to our country to clean up its mess.
“We learn that in preschool,” Burian said.
Sinats was equally impressive, citing the temperature change between ice ages.
“We’ve met with [Weaver] a lot so we know him pretty well,” Sinats said.
The two are on the Victoria Youth Council and were both on the Green Party’s election campaign.
“These two are inspirational, they’ve done their homework,” Weaver said. “When you hear them, they make me feel like my job is done and it’s time for [politicians] like me to get out of the way and to stop setting up barriers for them to accomplish what they need to.”
At least one Oak Bay student, Evan Armstrong, wasn’t content with the answer he got from the panel. He patiently, and politely, hung around to catch Weaver for a further explanation when it was all over.
“In general youth has very little geo-political impact,” Armstrong said, adding, “It’s great to have a climate scientist speak [at school] as usually it’s climate activists, so it’s good to have that lecture.”