Not a political question: Thunberg calls for climate action in Alberta

Not a political question: Thunberg calls for climate action in Alberta
Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg and youth organizers attend a rally at the Alberta Legislature Building in Edmonton, on Friday, Oct. 18, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Dave ChidleySwedish climate activist Greta Thunberg and youth organizers attend a rally at the Alberta Legislature Building in Edmonton, on Friday, Oct. 18, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Dave Chidley
Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg leaves a rally under police escort at the Alberta Legislature Building in Edmonton, on Friday, Oct. 18, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Dave ChidleySwedish climate activist Greta Thunberg leaves a rally under police escort at the Alberta Legislature Building in Edmonton, on Friday, Oct. 18, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Dave Chidley
Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg speaks at a rally at the Alberta Legislature Building in Edmonton, on Friday, Oct. 18, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Dave ChidleySwedish climate activist Greta Thunberg speaks at a rally at the Alberta Legislature Building in Edmonton, on Friday, Oct. 18, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Dave Chidley

Teen climate activist Greta Thunberg marched into the middle of Canada’s oilpatch Friday to urge people to stop fighting each other, focus on the science and take action.

“We cannot allow this crisis to continue to be a partisan, political question,” Thunberg said in a speech before thousands of people on the steps of the legislature.

“The climate and ecological crisis is far beyond party politics and the main enemy right now should not be any political opponents, because our main enemy is physics.”

Edmonton police estimated the size of the crowd at about 4,000, but organizers said more than 10,000 people jammed the plaza, parks and empty fountains of the legislature grounds.

The 16-year old from Sweden has taken her protest against climate change into a global movement that has seen her speak plainly to world leaders and forums, chastising them to do something before it’s too late to reverse catastrophic weather changes caused by global warming.

The crowd included children and teens who skipped school.

Thunberg said students want to be in class, but the climate crisis is an emergency that doesn’t allow for the luxury of time.

“We teenagers are not scientists, nor are we politicians. But it seems many of us, apart from most others, understand the science because we have done our homework,” she said. “And if you think we should be in school instead, then we suggest you take our place in the streets.

“Better yet, join us so we can speed up the process.”

ALSO READ: Greta Thunberg calls for climate action in Alberta, but doesn’t talk oilsands

The event was a cacophony of sights, sounds and smells.

There were thousands of climate change supporters, waving handmade signs ranging from personal (“We Love You Greta”) to profane (“Frack off Gassholes”).

They chanted “Greta! Greta! Greta!” and argued with dozens of counter-protesters, who in turn held up signs proclaiming love for pipelines, oil and gas and a desire to see Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau turfed in Monday’s federal election.

A convoy of pro oil and gas truckers passed by as Thunberg spoke, with the sound of their horns echoing through the plaza.

No politicians from Premier Jason Kenney’s United Conservative government were spotted. Some windows in the legislature still had “I Love Canadian Oil and Gas” signs posted inside from a previous rally, while windows facing the plaza had the blinds shut.

There was the smell of burning sweetgrass as several Indigenous speakers banged drums and denounced the degradation of the environment.

And there was a heavy police and legislature security presence. A police helicopter also circled overhead.

After the noon-hour speeches, dozens of supporters on both sides squared off in the plaza’s empty wading pool to shout at each other: the climate activists telling oil supporters that their ignorance won’t save them; the other side yelling to stop living in a fantasy world of no conventional energy.

There were earnest talks and a few middle fingers flashed before police waded in to gently break up the standoff.

On the way to the rally, a crowd of people stretching two city blocks first marched with Thunberg through part of Edmonton’s downtown.

At one point three young men tried to rush the teen, but organizers kept them back, said Joe Vipond with the Calgary Climate Hub. Several climate activists locked their arms around Thurnberg.

“We just want to make sure she’s safe,” said Vipond, who travelled to Edmonton with two busloads of Calgarians to support Thunberg.

“She’s the voice of this generation,” he said. “She’s put herself out there. Can you imagine as a 16-year-old taking all this on? She needs all the support she can get.”

Others involved in the rally said they like Thunberg’s message.

“We’re so big on oil, gas and pipelines and stuff like that,” said 11-year-old Ingrid Fredrick. ”It’s going to be hard for her to convince a lot of people here like she convinced me.”

Zachary Neufeld, 18, works in Fort McMurray and went to the rally with a few friends carrying signs that read, “I Love Canadian Energy.” They said they believe in climate change, but there’s a way to make fewer emissions while keeping jobs.

“It’s really important that we keep those jobs, especially in Alberta, because that’s a lot of our economy,” Neufeld said.

Oil and gas has been central to Alberta’s economy for generations, but the debate has become increasingly divisive in recent years. Demand for action on climate change is increasing while a sluggish petro-economy has seen thousands of Albertans thrown out of work.

Kenney won the spring election, in part, on a platform that paints Alberta as being victimized by a federal Liberal government determined to gut the industry through inaction or harmful regulation.

Kenney has also launched a $30-million war room along with a public inquiry to root out what he says are foreign interests pulling the strings of climate activists to keep Alberta’s core industry down. And his government has gutted a climate change program launched by the previous NDP government, including a consumer carbon tax.

Kenney had said his government didn’t plan on meeting with Thunberg and, during the rally Friday, he visited a power plant near Edmonton that’s switching from coal to cleaner natural gas.

“This is the kind of real, practical, technological solution to reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” Kenney said.

Dean Bennett and Colette Derworiz, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, said growing COVID-19 case numbers continue to be a concern in the province. (Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Alberta announces 1,077 new COVID-19 cases Thursday

There are currently 14,052 active cases in the province

File Photo
Sylvan Lake Town Council asks for a mask bylaw to be brought forward for consideration

The bylaw would require face coverings in all indoor Town-owned and operated facilities

The Sylvan Lake Food Bank with fully stocked shelves. File Photo
Sylvan Lake Food Bank to open for donations in lieu of Stuff-A-Bus

The annual stuff-a-bus event has been postponed until sometime in the new year

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, said the 500 deaths from COVID-19 in the province are a tragic milestone. (Photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Alberta hits ‘tragic milestone’ with more COVID-19 deaths

Province up to 500 COVID-19 deaths, adds 1,265 cases

Photo Submitted
Sylvan Lake Grade 2 students in Holiday Healing Campaign

Students in Nicole Eleniak’s class worked to share love and joy with other children this holiday

The corporate headquarters of Pfizer Canada are seen in Montreal, Monday, Nov. 9, 2020. The chief medical adviser at Health Canada says Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine could be approved in Canada next month. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Health Canada expects first COVID-19 vaccine to be approved next month

Canada has a purchase deal to buy at least 20 million doses of Pfizer’s vaccine,

People wear face masks as they pose next to a Christmas display in Montreal, Sunday, November 22, 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
How to tell family their Christmas gathering is too risky and you’re not going

Dr. Hurst says it’s best to frame the conversation from a place of care, stressing safety precautions.

A sign instructs people to wear masks in downtown Calgary on Friday, Oct. 30, 2020. Pub and restaurant owners are trying to figure out how to comply with a stricter COVID-19 measure in Alberta that dictates only six people from the same household can sit at one table. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Brewpub owner pleased Alberta not closing sit-down dining as COVID-19 cases soar

Alberta’s caseload of COVID-19 infections has been growing for weeks

This undated photo issued by the University of Oxford shows of vial of coronavirus vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University, in Oxford, England. (University of Oxford/John Cairns via AP)
Canada can make vaccines, just not the ones leading the COVID-19 race

Canada has spent more than $1 billion to pre-order seven different developing COVID-19 vaccines

(File photo)
Alberta woman charged after allegedly hitting boy with watermelon at B.C. campsite

Police say a disagreement among friends at an Adams Lake campsite turned ugly

A pedestrian wears masks while out walking in front of the Alberta Legislature as the COVID-19 numbers spike in Edmonton on Tuesday November 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Doctor says Alberta restrictions not enough to reduceCOVID-19 strain on hospitals

Mithani notes people are still allowed to gather indoors at large places of worship and in bars,

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speak to the media about the COVID-19 virus outside Rideau Cottage in Ottawa, Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s inability to manufacture vaccines in-house will delay distribution: Trudeau

First doses of COVID-19 vaccine expected in first few months of 2021, prime minister says

Most Read