In the heart of Canada’s oil country, the biggest crowd I have ever seen in this province rallied down the streets of downtown Edmonton to the steps of the Alberta Legislature for today’s Climate Strike march.
The crowd of more than 10,000 converged on the Legislature grounds to hear from a long list of speakers, but they were mostly all there to hear from Greta Thunberg. The 16-year old international environmental activist announced three days ago that she would be in Edmonton and the massive turnout today is a testament to her star power, the remarkable on the ground organization of climate justice and indigenous groups in Alberta, and the growing importance of climate change in Alberta – and in Monday’s federal election.
“And we are not doing this because we want to. We aren’t doing it because it’s fun. We’re aren’t doing it because we have a special interest in the climate or because we want to become politicians when we grow up,” Thunberg told the massive crowd.
“We are doing this because our future is at stake.”
Thunberg avoided talking about the federal election or hot button local issues like the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion project and oilsands emissions, and instead focused on the need to recognize the science and the political action that leaders need to take to address climate change.
Organizers of the Climate Strike in Edmonton included Climate Justice Edmonton, Edmonton Youth for Climate, Extinction Rebellion, and Beaver Hills Warriors. Along with Thunberg, speakers at the rally included Saddle Lake Cree Nation Headwoman, Pamela Quinn, student and organizer with Edmonton Youth for Climate Luke Nelson, Dene Tha First Nation youth activists Lynn Morin and Portia Morin, Climate Justice Edmonton organizer Batul Gulamhusein, student Edmonton Youth for Climate organizer Madison Prairie.
The 30 or so trucks that formed the pro-oil convoy that travelled from Red Deer and Nisku to downtown Edmonton made some noise, as did small groups of red hatted counter-protesters, but they were eclipsed by the sheer size of the crowd of Albertans participating in the Climate Strike.
There has been a lot of commentary about the fragility of pro-oil protesters who felt the need to counter-protest a 16-year old. But as political observer Chris Henderson posted on Twitter yesterday, they should feel threatened. Everywhere Greta Thunberg goes, she resonates orders of magnitude higher, just like she did today in Edmonton.