Words & Photography by CANDICE PYE & MIA ANHOURY
After La planète s’invite au parlement made waves in autumn 2018 with their sprawling protests, Quebec universities, CEGEPs, and even some high schools decided to hop on board and take things into their own hands with La planète s’invite à l’université (LPSU). On March 15, LPSU groups of students across the province of Quebec will walk out of classes, striking for climate change awareness.
Over 135,000 protesters in Quebec will be joining a global movement that began last August with 16-year-old Swedish student Greta Thunberg, who has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for her environmental activism.
Thunberg was the one who originally began encouraging students to skip school on Fridays and march to push governments to take actions against climate change. Collectives such as La planète s’invite au parlement and LPSU were inspired by her viral #FridaysForFuture social media campaign.
“I’ve always been a tree hugger, a hippie or whatever,” says Payton Mitchell, a member of Concordia University’s LPSU chapter. “Ever since I was little I’ve been obsessed with recycling and sustainability, so I really wanted Concordia to participate in this March 15 student strike.”
As a third-year student, Mitchell says the fact that this strike is a student-based movement makes it unique from the others. According to Mitchell, it’s Quebec’s youth who are the most determined to see positive change happen in an environmental context.
I’ve always known about climate change, we learned about it in kindergarten.
“I expected by the time I was 20 it would be figured out, and it’s not. That’s really frustrating,” says Mitchell.
Concordia LPSU member Jamie Latvaitis echoes Mitchell’s concerns. He believes that having students gather as one collective group for a strike is empowering, and helps a discouraged, younger generation feel that change is still possible.
“I think that youth nowadays feel alienated a lot,” says Latvaitis. “It’s a big concept in our heads that if you want change it has to be extremely complicated, so you feel disempowered […] I love movements like this for that reason.”
He says it is crucial to put the thought of taking on large institutions aside for a moment and go back to the basics of gathering people together.
“What we’re doing is making our voices heard, and that makes an impact on these institutions. We’re trying to show that we have a lot of power through networking, communication, and a collective movement,” he says. “Showing people that there’s hope is an important part of it.”
LPSU members are of the mindset that striking on March 15 is the best way to go about making change, despite the concerns some students may have.
“We don’t have much power outside of a strike; outside of getting in the streets, making noise, and making them know that we are there,” says LPSU member Rosalie Thibault, a first-year student studying Environment and Development Studies and Economics at McGill University. “It’s most representative of how many people and universities are with the movement.”
When it comes to students who are hesitant to participate in the strike, Latvaitis says he is not concerned. Over 60,000 students are predicted to strike across Quebec on March 15, and, according to Latvaitis, that in itself is an enormous statement.
“The way I see striking, and I think the way the whole collective sees it, is that it’s a way of explicitly making a claim or demand to the government,” he says. “There’s a very powerful feeling you get when you’re striking. That’s why a strike is necessary. It’s an explicit image of people in the streets acting as one, [acting on behalf of] one common interest.”
Mitchell says she continues to be frustrated by those who do not see the point of a strike. To her, it is the only logical action to take. Mitchell has no problem missing a class or two to better the environment and prevent the dire consequences of climate change.
“What’s the point of education if we don’t have a future? I’m [in university] to provide for my future and Concordia is actively working against my future by having oil investments and investments in other areas that are detrimental to the planet,” says Mitchell. “I came here to give myself a better future and that’s what I think I’m doing by walking out of class on March 15.”
Mitchell says another motivating factor behind the strike is fear.
“I think students are scared,” says Mitchell. “Both of my roommates are women and neither of them are planning on having kids because of climate change. That’s scary. I want to have kids. I shouldn’t have to give up my own happiness because people older than me were too lazy to make any sort of real change when they had the time.”
For LPSU and other such collectives, the fight against climate change is a global one. Human beings are running out of time.
“Theory is cool, but it’s better to take action,” says Thibault. “Do something!”
While Latvaitis is passionate about the clear environmental consequences of climate change, he says climate change affects him on an even deeper level, having grown up in the countryside.
“Nature has been an extremely big inspiration and influence on how I see life. It teaches you things. Nature is seen a lot of the time as being static or uncommunicative, but it isn’t,” he says. “It has agency to make you think and feel. I value nature for that reason.”
He says one goal he hopes to achieve through the strike on March 15th is to get people outside and truly be in touch with what LPSU groups are fighting for.
“We have to teach people that they’re part of it. They’re part of everything they’re studying,” says Latvaitis. “Teach them that they’re part of an ecosystem.”