This past weekend saw the world mobilize in the demand for climate action in the Global March to End Fossil Fuels. Millions from across the globe took to the streets to unify in the call for climate action now. This weekend of action, filled with major international events hosted from September 15th to 17th, 2023, was scheduled to coincide with the United Nations Secretary General’s Climate Ambition Summit being held in New York City.
On a sunny Saturday afternoon, September 16, 2023, thousands united on the lawn of Queen’s Park in Toronto to demand climate action. Sitting on the heels of the hottest summer on record, wherein Canadians experienced the first-hand impacts of climate change via record-breaking temperatures, wildfires burning across the country (and beyond, with smoke reaching across the US and even into parts of Europe) resulting in hazardous air quality, the shared feeling of urgency for change was palpable.
FTA’s Research Coordinator, Alexandra Ho, was fortunate to be in attendance at two of these climate strikes this weekend: first, the Toronto march on Saturday, followed by the Hamilton strike (her hometown!) on Sunday, and shares her experience.
Each strike brought together concerned citizens representing dozens of environmental causes and organizations. Among the many concerns expressed by the community, the pressures of activists remained steadfast against Ontario’s controversial Bill 23 (jeopardizing thousands of acres of critical farmland, forests, and wetlands for development); calling for the forefronting of Indigenous voices and leadership in the fight for climate solutions; highlighting youth activism and determination, and ensuring that our activism is inclusive, accessible, and intersectional.
The crowd brought together community members spanning sectors: from healthcare to labour unions, students to seniors, grandchildren alongside grandparents, artists, storytellers and musicians, educators and academics, elected political representatives and activists, healers and elders, and all those between. In essence, our collective frustration, anxiety, and angst was focused on the stagnancy in global climate action and inaction from political leadership.
Activism can be a lonely thing. It can be easy to get lost in the feelings of frustration, overwhelm and anxiety about the state of our shared future. And, of isolation, when you feel like you’re the only one talking about a cause. But spaces like these bring us closer and remind us that we’re in this together. That we aren’t alone in the fight for change. And that our voices can’t ever be lost when we come together to vocalize what we stand for: a #FastFairForever end to the use of fossil fuels.
This weekend, I was moved by the ‘coming together’ of the crowd; the chanting and cheering toward a decarbonized future. We were united with one voice, fighting together for climate justice, for everyone.
As we walked through the streets of Toronto, passersby jumped in from the sidewalks. Motorists honked in support. At the Hamilton rally, NDP MPP Sandy Shaw was in attendance. She spoke of how attending the strike, hearing from others, and seeing our community turnout was incredibly uplifting and restored her optimism to address the crisis. I could not agree with her more – these community spaces remind us that we’re not alone in our shared goals.
We are taking on some incredibly heavy and emotionally charged topics, and it’s important to remember that both collective rest and joy sustain activism. Climate strikes are a place to get things done, but can also provide an incredibly special, energized, and uplifting space to connect with like-minded people in a way that can serve to rest, refuel, and recharge.
As we push for systems change from within the confines of an extractivist, capitalist, colonial system, it’s an affirming reminder that there is no perfect way to be an activist. We can’t get held up by trying to do it perfection – perfection is impossible. We can all take action to fight climate change, simply by talking about it.
I’m still learning how to be the best climate activist I can be am constantly learning from those around me; listening to and learning from new perspectives and stories. As someone living and working in academia in the Global North, I recognizing my positionality to the climate crisis and the way that I must continually seek to integrate and reconcile that with the work I do. Climate strikes have been an integral part of hearing from and connecting with many new voices, causes, and perspectives. If you have the chance to attend one near you, whether to actively take part or even just to observe, I can’t recommend it enough. It’s truly such an intimate and connected experience to be a part of.
With the march sitting on the heels of New York Fashion Week and at the head of New York City Climate Week, I’m reminded of the work we must continue to do to reconcile the fashion value chain with the industry’s decarbonization targets as set by the IPCC. The streets are our runway, and there’s never been a more important time to march down them together, because climate action is always in fashion.
Alex is a Master of Climate Change graduate of the University of Waterloo (‘23) and a current Research Assistant with Fashion Takes Action. Opinions expressed and photos are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the endorsement of, or those held by, Fashion Takes Action.