July 08, 2015

Jobs, Justice, and the Climate

Since my childhood, environmental issues have consistently been those closest to my heart. This has taken several forms such as nature photography, hiking, supporting public transit, and my primary focus on cycling advocacy. On Sunday, July 5, I was able to express this passion for the environment by attending Toronto’s March for Jobs, Justice, and the Climate; held ahead of this week's Climate Summit of the Americas.
The March progressing down University Avenue
As a way to get cyclists involved, this March marks the first time I lead a group ride. Even with the short notice, there were ten cyclists (myself included) who rode along Bloor Street to Queen’s Park. Including small group rides from the north via Yonge Street and the east via Danforth Avenue, as well as others who went directly to Queen’s Park, Toronto’s cyclist community made their presence known as part of the March’s “We Have Solutions” contingent. After all, cycling is a real solution to fighting climate change and more Torontonians will consider this solution when they feel safe to do so. That is where Cycle Toronto’s Minimum Grid campaign comes in.
Cyclists gathered at Queen's Park
The cyclists were joined by more than ten thousand other concerned citizens from virtually all walks of life and were organized into four contingents. The first – It Starts With Justice – focuses on First Nations groups and other marginalized communities via groups such as No One Is Illegal. The second – Good Work, Clean Jobs, Healthy Communities – brought in various labour groups and anti-poverty advocates fighting for a $15/hour minimum wage and ensuring everyone can participate in the new green economy. In addition to cyclists, the We Have Solutions contingent brought together advocates for clean energy, food security, and public transit such as the Clean Train Coalition and TTCriders. Last, but not least, We Know Who’s Responsible includes those fighting against pipelines such as Energy East and supporters of the fossil fuel divestment movement. There was also a significant political presence by the Green and New Democratic Parties.
At Queen’s Park, there were some audio issues during the pre-March speeches, so the only speech I heard was from Fred Hahn – President of CUPE Ontario – who emphasized how people have real power when they get together. Others high profile advocates who spoke (which I didn't know about until reading the media coverage) include David Suzuki, Naomi Klein, and Hollywood actress Jane Fonda. After the speeches, the March moved south on University Avenue, east on Dundas Street, and north on Jarvis Street before arriving at Allan Gardens; a historically significant location for Toronto activism dating back to the 19th century! (more info here) At Allan Gardens, participants were treated to musical performances kicked off by none other than Joel Plaskett!
Joel Plaskett performing at Allan Gardens
One of the main reasons to take action on climate change is to create a better world for future generations and some of today’s youth are already taking action! Before leaving the March, I met one such advocate – Rachel Parent – a fifteen year old whose advocacy for the labelling food created from genetically modified organisms (GMO’s) has gotten national attention. While I was informed of biotechnology and food security issues in the past through the Food Inc documentary and other sources, her organization – Kids Right To Know – has a unique focus on getting youth involved. Even for adults, the information provided on the website is a good refresher on how pervasive GMO’s are[1], how they are made, and environmental effects such as habitat destruction, chemical resistance, and groundwater contamination. There are also events and action items for those wishing to become more involved.
With GMO labelling advocate Rachel Parent
This proof of youth engagement leads to three lessons. The first is it is never too early or too late to get involved in something you are passionate about. The second is these youth initiatives should be encouraged not only to get more youth involved, but to also develop our leaders of tomorrow. Finally, expertise is not as important as being able to continuously learn and adapt to the latest issues and technologies, especially given expertise can be based on obsolete methods. In the context of climate change, this March served as a rallying point to leave behind our unsustainable dependence on oil and work towards a new green economy that benefits everyone!

March on!
Rob Z (e-mail)



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[1] The website indicated approximately 90% of primary crops such as corn and soybeans are genetically modified and that 90% of supermarket products contain genetically modified ingredients. Also confirmed in Food Inc.

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