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The global climate strike is just the beginning

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Global climate Strike in London in March 2019. Image: Garry Knight/Flickr

The global climate strike wasn't intended to "amaze" so-called leaders about "the kids" and allow them to make generic statements about climate change to conceal their pro-fossil fuel industry policies and actions.

The Canadian environment minister whose government bought an 890,000-barrel-per-day tar sands pipeline patronizingly tweeted, "The kids demanding climate action in New York, across Canada, and around the world have it right -- It is about their future."

The prime minister retweeted a local Liberal MP's tweet, "Climate change affects us all. But nobody will be affected more than our youth. Proud of our community's youth for speaking up about what matters to them."

The climate strike wasn't intended to make MPs proud about "our youth" (sigh); it was meant to spur action at the United Nations Climate Action Summit this week.

Unfortunately, the Liberal government isn't about to take a whole new Green New Deal agenda to the UN this week.

There's no indication that the Liberals are about to phase out the $3.3 billion in annual subsidies to the oil and gas industry (as promised in 2015) or cancel the purchase of the Trans Mountain pipeline and redirect that $4.5 billion into renewable energy programs.

Nor does it seem they are about to increase the ambition of the carbon emission reduction target they adopted from the previous Conservative government. There's not even a truly credible plan from them that they'll meet that weak target.

And while Trudeau apologized for his racist blackface actions, he hasn't made amends for his government's systemic racism of violating the Indigenous right to free, prior and informed consent (if he did the pipeline route wouldn't include the Secwepemc Nation and other nations).

Across the pond, the British newspaper The Telegraph stated, "This climate strike is a joke. Childish socialism won't help the environment."

George Monbiot had the perfect succinct reply to this: "You don't have to look far to see where the problem lies. The Telegraph is owned by two billionaires. For the sake of their own, immediate interests they seem prepared to sacrifice a habitable planet."

And while the Trudeau government's response may have sounded different than The Telegraph's view, it wasn't, not really.

The Telegraph may be owned by two billionaires, but we have a millionaire prime minister who has not retracted his statement to a roomful of other millionaires that, "No country would find 173 billion barrels of oil in the ground and just leave them there."

The global climate strike was a wonderful accomplishment of on the ground organizing. It truly was. And while we should celebrate the massive mobilization that took place on Friday, September 20, we can simultaneously commiserate that the march wasn't an end in of itself.

How we make the needed change happen is a big question, but it starts with confronting a few systemic realities.

First, there's the massive obstacle of transnational corporations

One hundred companies have been the source of more than 70 per cent of the world's greenhouse gas emissions since 1988 and more than half of global industrial emissions are produced by just 25 corporate and state-owned entities.

ExxonMobil spends about $41 million a year on lobbying to control, delay or block binding legislation to avert climate breakdown and is gearing up to spend $167 billion on oil and gas capital expenditures in new fields between 2020 and 2029.

There's also the not small matter of our economic system.

This past April, Monbiot commented on a BBC-TV program, "We have to overthrow this system which is eating the planet with perpetual growth. We've got to go straight to the heart of capitalism and overthrow it."

Let's keep marching, but let's also acknowledge there are limitations to marches, even global marches.

On February 15 and 16, 2003, between 6 and 10 million people took part in marches around the world against the imminent war against Iraq. That was a larger turnout than the 4 million people who took part in this past week's global climate strike. But the war began three weeks later on March 20, 2003, and hundreds of thousands of people would be killed or wounded.

Climate change is already killing 400,000 people a year, so what do we do?

Greta Thunberg tweeted, "If you belong to the small number of people who feel threatened by us, then we have some very bad news for you: This is just the beginning."

Now those are heartening words.

Brent Patterson is a political activist and writer.

Image: Garry Knight/Flickr

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