Climate Strike Article
By: Anna Berglas
On September 27, thousands of Ottawa activists joined together to march down the streets of downtown onto Parliament Hill. Their goal? Demanding action from the government concerning climate change.
Among the young protesters were at least a hundred Nepean students. Teachers were asked to avoid assessments, but numerous teachers at Nepean took this sentiment even further by postponing important lessons in order to allow students to attend the Climate Strike.
Nepean students going up the escalator towards Confederation Park. Photo taken by Anna Berglas.
Sarah Landry, a twelfth grade here at Nepean, played a large role in organising an interested group of students and planning bus routes to Confederation Park, as well as running the school’s account @nhs.saysno.
“As someone who’s first real involvement in activism has been in the current environmental movement, this day really means a lot to me,” Sarah Landry states. “This really is important to me because it has gotten so many young people to become politically aware and involved in activism. I know this will influence people’s involvement in other movements as well.”
“I brought up the strikes organized by Earth Strike, an international climate group, at my first time at an Environment Club meeting. Many members of the group later on attended a climate rally at City Hall, which led to me getting more involved.”
Pictured: Protesters milling at Parliament hill. Photo taken by Sarah Landry
As soon as I attended both City Hall rallies, I knew I was in it for good. It influenced me to start bringing attention to the issue in a place where I knew I could create some sort of ripple effect.”
“ I’m glad to see so many Nepean kids passionate and willing to miss school for this cause. Having made an influence on that by bringing awareness, I feel like I’ve made good use of my time as a student. Activism is really exciting, and I encourage kids to join local groups and get involved. You meet a lot of new people, and get opportunities to do some amazing things.”
Climate change is an especially relevant issue for Canadians. Over the past years, the Ottawa area has been subject to a series of freak storms. The recent variability in temperature has been unparalleled. According to Union of Concerned Scientists, Canada is the ninth highest emitter of carbon dioxide, with the oil and gas industry being the largest contributor.
Everyone has a role to play in terms of reducing our environmental impact. At a household level, this can mean choosing energy efficient light bulbs, or installing a smart home-thermostat.
Pictured: Naomi Fewer and her sign. Photograph taken by Anna Berglas
However, for those caught in climate change anxiety, there is hope to be had. Overall, total GHG emissions per person have declined since the 1990’s, despite the growing population in Canada. Awareness and diligence works.
The Appalling Yet Unsolved Water Problem in First Nations
By: Blanca Royo Camacho
The Canadian federal government is not doing enough to help the Indigenous people with cleaning their water and providing water systems on and off reserves. I am not a Canadian citizen, but when I learned about the lack of drinkable water in First Nations reserves I thought that it was unfair. I thought Canada was a first world country but in some points, it is not, as there is systematic inequality between Indigenous people and non-Indigenous people.
Did you know that there are chemicals such as mercury in the water? For example, according to Dorothy First Rider of the Blood reserve the majority of their population, including infants were suffering from diverse illnesses, such as stomach ailments or infections of the skin due to chemicals found in water. This situation is shocking because there should be help provided by the government in order to assure every person’s well-being. The Indigenous perspective that claims that amassing wealth should be used for the good of the community means that every citizen is equal and the money of the State should be used in an equal way to achieve and maintain the healthy conditions needed for the greater good of the whole Canadian community. Therefore, if the Canadian government were to apply this worldview, then Indigenous communities would be entitled to have clean water.
Another astonishing fact that concerns directly the unalienable Human Rights happened in the Indian Act. This Act declared Indigenous Canadian People wards of the State and therefore their band council was isolated. I believe this is wrong because it demonstrates how compartmentalized society is by leaving Indigenous people at an inferior level to the rest of Canadian citizens. In contrast to this, the Indigenous worldview defends society is organized in a state of relatedness and belonging with each other. Eurocentric worldview is wrong because it leads to the marginalization of these people.
A First Nations reserve who is suffering from water advisory for an incredibly long time is the Kashechewan reserve. In 2005 this community had an outbreak of E. Coli because of water poisoning. This situation shows a lack of one of the Indigenous worldviews mentioned before, “Amassing wealth is important for the good of all the community” such an important worldview demands the government to use the money impartially. Money should not be given only to enterprises or sources of the State interest. If this disgraceful problem was happening in Ottawa there would be no doubt in depositing money for the cause, whereas Indigenous people have been waiting and will be waiting for decades until we decide to take action.
Moreover, the data provided by different sources confirmed how inadequate the water systems are funded. For example, there was a lawsuit that demanded the government to refund the funds because they failed in providing safe water systems. Indigenous people consider humans part of the world rather than the most important living organism. I reckon that if we saw human beings as a part of the world and not as the most important individual in nature as above state, then we would distribute and treat water respectfully. However, we consider ourselves better than the rest of the species and we even feel superior to Indigenous people as if they were not any kind of humans.
Overall, even if I’m not a Canadian citizen, I feel we are all united and should take part in solving this shameful problem. Well developed countries such as Canada should not face this type of inequality problems. We should just think if we would allow Ottawa to be under water boiling advisory for decades without adequate funding and then this issue would be taken more seriously.
The Moral and Ethical Dilemmas of Buying a Prom Dress
By: Anna Berglas
It’s that time of year… the craze to get the first prom dress “reserved” has started. Tensions are rising, wallets are emptied, year long friendships are suddenly destroyed after similar colour taste... grade 12s have entered the lawless land of prom dress shopping.
Sometimes it seems like the Nepean prom dress account exists to haunt me. I can be shamed both for following it, and not following it. What do I do? Am I buying into the pettiness of entitlement by spending hours talking about expensive outfits? Or am I respecting tradition by dissing dresses with my friends?
This might be a very important night, but nothing can top the night I discovered adding hot chocolate and coffee powder into one mug (a life changer!) and I was wearing jeans and a T-shirts. Then again, my mother will keep prom photos (aurgh) for eternity, so I must choose a non cringy dress. From that viewpoint, the stakes have never been higher.
Lots of people stress the importance of having a unique dress. But all the dresses on the account look pretty similar to me. I’ve resigned myself to the fact that I'll be pretty much unidentifiable in all the photos anyway.
As I’m writing this, nhs_promdresses has 20 posts. By the time I finish, there will be another one. I wake up, and five have been posted. I’m afraid to leave my phone off for longer than twenty minutes in case all prom dresses ever are taken. It’s a mad race, and I’m already falling behind.
Maybe I’ll wake up tomorrow and will realise the insanity of prom dresses (and an account dedicated to the restrictions of options) is some elaborate social experiment. If so, I’ve failed. No matter how much I deny it, I look forward to each new submission with barely suppressed excitement. Ok, it seems like I’m no better than the rest of the senior grade. Avoid black dresses, people! That’s my colour!
The Results of the Federal Election's Impact on Youth
By: Patrick Pearson
Now that many young adults are moving out, getting jobs, and paying taxes, the government’s policies affect them more directly. That is why it is essential for young people to be informed about and engaged in politics. Although it most likely will not last a full term, Justin Trudeau’s reelection in October will have a direct impact on a very important time in our lives. Some of the issues that affect them the most are the environment and climate justice, post secondary, affordable housing, and entry level jobs.
The Liberals plan to have Canada reach net zero emissions by 2050. They will do this through tax breaks to environmentally friendly families and companies, provide loans to those who wish to retrofit their homes, and investing in green energy. They also want to declare more land as protected, ban single use plastics, and plant two billion trees by 2030. However, many scientists say 2050 will be too late. The UN General Assembly has declared there are eleven years until an inevitable climate disaster. This plan also serves to help the Liberals win future elections. To combat climate change and prevent a climate emergency, a singular plan must be created and diligently followed. Changes in parliament would disrupt this process, especially if it were to a Conservative government, which is likely. That begs the question, is this plan designed to take longer than it needs to for the benefit of the Liberals? Also, they have a bad track record with pipelines, pointing out hypocrisy in their narrative. They plan to continue the Trans Mountain Expansion Project, expanding the Trans Mountain Pipeline by almost a thousand kilometres.
Although every single one of the other major parties have promised policy that will make post secondary education less expensive, such as the Green Party’s bold promise to make tuition free, the Liberals have not. However, they plan to expand the Canada Student Loan Program due to education funding cuts by provincial conservative governments and make it more easily accessible. They will only allow for graduates making at least $35,000 per year to repay their loans and will out the repayments on hold for new parents. However, this does not help in the moment, as it will only begin to affect graduates once they are into their thirties and have already achieved some stability on their own. Instead, the Liberals should directly help those struggling in the process of going through a post secondary education.
Trudeau’s housing plan is centered around his First Time Home Buyer Incentive program, which he conveniently introduced just before the electing, it taking effect on September 2nd. Although the details under which the plan was introduced made it troublesome in how although it looked good, it would not apply to many young adults who need it, he campaigned on loosening the restrictions. For example, more houses will qualify for the program. The amount that first time homebuyers are able to take out of their RRSPs will also be increased. However, all of this is not immediately relevant to many young adults entering the housing market. In many major markets, housing prices are growing, and most young people will only be able to afford rented apartments, which these programs do not address.
The Liberal’s platform does not so much as even mention entry level jobs. Their proposed policies on employment mostly just helps people get the training they need for jobs, examples being the Canadian Apprenticeship Service and the Canada Training Benefit. The former gives grants to help apprentices finish their apprenticeships and the latter gives grants to help those who have to be retrained in the middle of their careers due to changing industry standards. These policies do not do much to help young adults, who are entering a particularly tumultuous job market.
As shown by the evidence presented in this article, the Liberals are all talk. They claim to stand up for the little guy, but most of their policies are targeted towards upper middle class families who are already stable. Resources should be going to young adults, who are forced to deal with a lack of well paying jobs in their fields, a dying planet, expensive housing, the burden of student loans, and the ever increasing cost of living, all caused by the government’s historical ignorance to the issues young people face. This is why it is essential for us to make sure we are seen. Get involved with your local member of parliament, use your voice to protest unfair policies, and most importantly, vote in future elections.
Water Crisis is Unacceptable
By: Markiss Jeanty
The Canadian Federal Government is not doing enough to help the Indigenous people with clean water and provide standardized water systems on and off reserves.
Firstly, water boiling advisories have been a big issue and there are too many in Canada. For example, in 2011 Attawapiskat declared inadequate housing including lack of running water in many dwellings (Flegg 1) . This should not be happening to the people on the reserves. I think the federal government should apply the Indigenous worldview that the land is sacred to Canada so that every Canadian on or off reserve can drink clean water. Overall, the land that First Nations people have to live on have bad infrastructure and no standardized water systems for them to use making their lives way harder when it shouldn't be.
Next, human rights have also not been met with the Indigenous people. I believe water is a human right for everyone and right now the government is not treating the Indigenous people with the respect they should. For example, they are not being given the money to have proper working maintained water systems violating their human rights. For instance, in June 2014, four First Nations groups filed a court case to the government for not providing them the basic necessities (Flegg 1). Also, the Canadian Charter of Rights and the United Nations Declaration is not being meant due to discrimination based on race (Flegg 1). The worldview that many truths are shaped by experiences should be honored because it's disrespectful and dishonest to say the government is trying to help when their water systems are not up to code as well as not getting enough money to fix the problem. Although the truth is different for the First Nations with their water crisis and they live far away from cities, the federal government should make their rights more of a priority because Indigenous people are not getting the same rights as everyone else and this is wrong.
Furthermore, the water in reserves is polluted with chemicals and this is bad. For example, a major problem the Indigenous people face is bad chemicals such as mercury which caused a lot of deaths among the Indigenous people and caused stomach ailments, infections to the skin, urinary system, ears, and eyes (Flegg 1). The Indigenous people are humans just like the rest of us and should be treated like it. The government is showing no compassion or motivation to help with the water after seeing the effects it causes with skin infections, stomach ailments, and people dying from mercury poisoning. If the government operated from the Indigenous worldview that humans are a part of the world they would be more willing to help out the cause rather than making excuses to not help at all.
Lastly, the gap in funds for making water systems and maintaining water systems has been unacceptable to the Indigenous people. The gap in funding is $1.8 billion dollars for the water systems to provide clean water. The government has ignored this issue for too long and people need to understand that this is a major problem and should be solved quickly. Many people had to live in poor conditions with minimal help from the government. Amassing wealth is important for the good of the community that's a worldview the Indigenous people stand by. They share everything and help out everyone in the community for the better, while the government is giving away money to causes that are not as severe as the water crisis.
In conclusion, the federal government needs to open their eyes to what's happening to the crisis happening to the Indigenous people and how worse it can become if the problem is not resolved.
The Toxicity of Social Media
By: Emma Williams
The other night I was scrolling through Instagram and I caught myself looking at the profiles of influencers around my age. While I was looking at these profiles I started to feel worse and worse about myself, there were thoughts going around my head saying, you will never be as successful as them, you will never compare to them, and finally, you will never be as pretty as them. Then I realized that I had gotten myself into a loop, so I stopped and said to myself, why are you thinking like this, it won’t do you any good. What happened to me was an example of how social media affects mental health and how it can be toxic, I did a little bit of research to see just how much of an impact social media does have.
It is obvious that social media can be used to bring attention to important issues that we face, but from what I have seen it is mostly based on how many likes we can get. I decided to look into the impacts it has on the mental health of youth since most social media sites are populated by the age ranges of 13-17 and 18-24. While looking into some topics I found that people who use social media are at a higher risk of being diagnosed with anxiety or depression, because there is that standard of how life should be that is constantly being pushed into our faces. We compare our life to the “standard” and realize that our life isn’t like that and we start to feel bad about ourselves.
As well as the standard of life there is also a standard of beauty. The standard of beauty makes us think that that’s how we should look because that is what is considered attractive, and it takes a toll on our self-esteem. The fact that social media harms self-esteem is not unknown and has been proven through studies conducted by schools through surveys, universities such as the University of Pittsburgh, and news outlets. The profiles that I came across were of influencers who were 15, 16, and 17 years old, these influencers have millions of followers most of which are their age or younger. They put almost everything about their lives out on the internet, creating this persona for their followers and live off likes, it’s unhealthy for the influencers themselves and especially for the people who follow them because of the comparison. The people who follow them have the exact same thoughts running through their heads as I did, and some of them don’t even realize it. It is also shown through the likes and the comments the followers commenting like “you’re so pretty and sometimes I wish I was like you” causing them to believe they will never be as good as the person they are commenting on.
It affects the influencers just as much, I follow one guy who writes at the end of each caption, 10x comments for a follow or 1x comment for a dm, I tried it once and I never got a dm back, this shows the fact that people live on likes and comments and if they don’t get enough it is seen as a failure.
Social media has impacted our lives more than we know. If we pay attention to what goes through our minds while scrolling we can stop ourselves from feeling the negative emotions that go along with comparisons we face through social media.
Bailey Parnell -Ted talk x Ryerson: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Czg_9C7gw0o
The Virus - Pandemic, Climate Grief, and Ecofascism
By: Evan Robins
We are currently amid the worst pandemic of our generation. Nothing we have yet experienced in our lifetimes can compare to the effects the COVID-19 pandemic has brought. Our education seems to be up in the air. Our communities are inaccessible and our stores are shut down. We are shuttered inside our own homes. Put in these terms, it’s easy to make this situation seem hopeless. This hopelessness feeds into a larger phenomenon at work today. Scouring the internet, as many people have been doing with so much time on their hands, there is a sense of existential dread surrounding current affairs, the economy, politics, education, climate change.
Ah, climate change. It’s a subject that is paradoxically constantly talked about yet critically ignored, and this toxic spiral has begun to affect people for the worse. “Climate grief” is a relatively new phenomenon, it’s been described as “eco-nihilism”, “climate despair” and “human futilitarianism”, and it boils down to a very simple reality, all this talk of the severity of climate change, with no sign of tangible action to fight it has very negative repercussions on our mental health. The aggressive depiction of climate change and the apocalyptic imagery associated with it has led to a considerable rise in climate-related anxiety and depression, particularly amongst young people. As Mike Pearl (2020) puts it in an article for VICE, “climate despair goes far beyond a reasonable concern that a warming planet will make life more difficult. Instead of rallying us, climate despair asks us to give up.”
Climate grief is something very personal to me. As someone who is outspoken and politically active, the current environmental crisis is frequently on my mind. Myself and an incredibly savvy friend (who was interviewed by Knightwatch in September 2019) organized Nepean’s September 27th Climate Strike. And while the event itself was a massive success, in the months afterward, the enormity of the issue began to weigh on me. I became burnt out, and I lost motivation to attend successive events. It felt like no one was doing anything, and that my voice would not make a difference either way. I saw similar sentiments spread amongst my politically engaged peers, our initiatives and attempts to rally felt increasingly futile. This has been all the more exacerbated over the past months, as the pandemic and climate issues begin to intersect. In February the government of British Columbia, in contravention of Delgamuukw v. British Columbia (1997) deployed armed RCMP officers onto the unceded land of the Wet’suwet’en people. Coastal GasLink (CGL), despite an eviction notice served by Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs and CGL violating BC’s pipeline regulations more than fifty times (McIntosh, 2020) continue to move forward on building the heavily disputed pipeline amidst the COVID-19 outbreak, while Wet’suwet’en land defenders are left incommunicado, unable to rally, and at risk of contracting the disease from the workers trespassing on their lands. In a situation like this, what can the voice of a single high schooler in Ottawa do? You see then, how easy it is to become bogged down in despair. The current pandemic only worsens things, as people are spending more time on social media, every day having their timelines swamped with bad news; more confirmed cases of coronavirus, warnings of economic recession. For those of us politically inclined, it is incredibly trying to sit by and idly watch as situations continue to worsen. Despite the copypastas circulating, claiming that this quarantine is a cause for celebration, citing clearer canals in Venice, and smog reduction in China, there are still far too many questions surrounding the actual climate impact of coronavirus. For while it’s certainly not unprecedented to draw comparisons to the problems presented by COVID-19 and anthropogenic climate change, the responses necessary are wildly different. Reduced air pollution, clearer waterways, all of these things superficially point to an effective green response, but these arbitrary metrics do not take into account the massive amounts of electricity and bandwidth being drawn on by people quarantined at home, and the very real repercussions that energy production will continue to have. Experts warn that in the long run, a quarantine model is not effective in fighting climate change. While emissions seem to be going down, for the time being, countries will invariably seek to repair their economies through industry and use of fossil fuels, choking the atmosphere with even more carbon emissions (Trembath & Wang, 2020).
Amidst all this, there is one common sentiment I continue to see. We are the virus. It is humanity at fault for all of this destruction. It’s a sentiment that’s easy to understand, it taps into the collective despair we are all sharing right now. However, this sentiment is fraught with a dangerous sentiment. Throughout the world this idea is being taken, abstracted, and repackaged into a very concerning form of nationalist sentiment. Following the last Austrian election, the People’s Party, who support measures such as banning Islamic headscarves and jailing refugees who seek asylum, formed a coalition government with the Austrian Green Party. This is just one case out of dozens, as we see around the world what is being called “Eco-fascism”, the use of climate change and apocalyptic fear-mongering to encourage isolationist economic measures and far-right nationalist policy (Gilman, 2020). The idea that humanity is the virus is essential to pushing these ideas, both on the fronts of climate change, and pandemic response. COVID-19 has allowed many people to justify racism and xenophobia, referring to it as the “Chinese virus” and intimately associating it with immigration and “other cultures”. Eco-fascists use similar rhetoric to lobby against immigration in the guise of reducing carbon emissions and keeping those out who “wouldn’t take care” of a country where they were not born. Yet despite the protestations of those making the bills, the racism is evident. Anti-immigrant policy is frequently targeted at countries who produce disproportionally more climate refugees (migrants who are fleeing as a result of the effects of climate change), while European and North American migrants from the civilized “West” are allowed to travel (for the most part) freely (Podesta, 2019). There’s a certain belief that any action on climate change is inherently progressive, and thus inherently good, but there is often a deeply political divide as to the approach and intent behind climate legislation. As Murray Bookchin, political activist and environmentalist noted, “there are barely disguised racists, survivalists, macho Daniel Boones, and outright social reactionaries who use the word ecology to express their views, just as there are deeply concerned naturalists, communitarians, social radicals and feminists who that use the word ecology to express theirs,” (Bookchin, 1987).
To take it back to the bigger picture, I am not sharing this information to frighten you. I am merely attempting to highlight the connections between two alarming phenomena affecting us right now, and the concrete effects these sometimes abstract issues are having on our society, our politics, and our lives. This short article is by no means a comprehensive account of the issue, and I would implore it not be your last inquiry into the subject. There are countless articles, books, and documentaries produced by people far more knowledgeable than me. I've merely abstracted their words in the hope of presenting their ideas to you, the reader. If you’re interested in the subject, I’d highly suggest further reading. The Philosophy Tube video “Climate Grief” on YouTube, or the book The Ecology of Freedom by philosopher Murray Bookchin are excellent resources on the subject, as well as On Fire: The Burning Case for the Green New Deal by Naomi Klein. While these issues are very daunting and scary, it’s also important to remember that we are capable of solving them. From simple initiatives at the community level to extensive infrastructure changes, there are real ways of not only combating pandemics and viruses, but the aggressive anthropogenic climate change that has made such outbreaks possible. Climate grief can make us feel isolated, powerless, and alone, but in reality, we are unified in the face of these issues. We are not the virus, we are the cure. We are all in this together, and together is the only way forward.
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