“We can’t sit and do nothing:” Meet the teens behind Ottawa’s global climate strike

Parliament Hill - Victoria Day

Every Friday, Mia and Katie Beijer hitch a ride with their mother from their home in Cantley, Qc. to Parliament Hill to continue their fight for climate action.

The sisters are joined by a handful of other teenagers who, sometimes with parental approval, skip school to fight for a better future.

They are expecting a much bigger turnout this Friday for Ottawa’s Global Student Climate Strike - one of hundreds of rallies around the world for teenagers interested in fighting climate change.

“When you tell someone that’s 16 that yes in 10 years there’s going to be a climate apocalypse, and the world will become a wasteland of natural disasters … that hits you hard,” Mia Beijer told 580 CFRA.

“You get the feeling of this isn’t okay - we can’t sit and do nothing.”

The girls are co-hosting the Ottawa event through their new youth-led climate group called The Future is Rising Ottawa.

The girls are following the lead of Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old Swede who has been skipping Friday classes for the last year, opting instead to protest climate change in front of the Swedish parliament buildings. She calls the movement #FridaysForTheFuture on social media.

On Thursday, Thunberg was nominated by three Norwegian MPs for the Nobel Peace Prize. If she wins, Thunberg would be the youngest recipient in history.

The Beijer sisters have been going to climate change rallies with their mom since they learnt how to walk - but it was only after watching Thunberg did Mia Beijer, 15, think someone her age could lead the dialogue.

“I see myself in Greta Thunberg,” Beijer said. “I am very affected by the climate change movement and this was my moment to go ‘yeah there’s people that think like me.’”

Young people like Thunberg and the Beijer sisters are coming out in the thousands around the world demanding climate change action after a damning environmental report spurred them to action.

The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a bombshell report in November that found even the most stringent climate change goals will not be met by 2030 unless aggressive action is taken by world leaders. In order to control the impacts of climate change, scientists in the report found that global net emissions would need to fall by 45 per cent from 2010 levels in the next 12 years. This will keep global temperatures within the 1.5 Celsius range.

If serious action is not taken, scientists say an extreme temperature rise can have serious implications for the world including more climate refugees, climate-related deaths and more severe climate events.

Beijer has some opinions on how the government is doing to address the UN’s report. She wants to see the government reverse their decision to buy the controversial Trans Mountain pipeline for $4.5 billion and instead make a total divestment away from fossil fuels to invest in green energy.

“He bought a pipeline,” Beijer continued. “We’re here to say we’re watching, we see what you're doing - and it’s not okay.”

The Global Climate Strike takes place on Parliament Hill from 12 to 4 p.m. on March 15.