“What do we want? Climate action! When do we want it? Now!” This was the chant that tore through the crowd as we marched in the global climate strike on the last Friday of September.

Many of us from CMU had just spent an hour in one of two churches adjacent to the Manitoba Legislative Building, sitting with people from many Christian denominations and other religions as we all cried out for one of the core things we all share— the planet we live on.

The climate strike in Winnipeg was a place that brought over 12,000 people together on the lawn of the Legislature. As such, it was a place where people came for many different reasons. There were youth who fear for their futures and want to show the world that they are willing to say something about it. There were parents who were marching for these youth. There were Indigenous folks who want everyone to remember the harm that has been done to the land and their people and for us all to be better in the future.

There were animal rights activists who preached the virtues of eating without animal cruelty, and explained the explicit ties between global warming and our eating habits. There were communists and anarchists who were clamouring for political reform. There were people of many different religions who wanted to fulfill their place as stewards of the earth. There were people who came simply because they wanted to be on the right side of history and wanted to witness the mass of humanity that accumulated in one place.

I watched many different groups of people I know move among the crowd, many holding up signs proclaiming the despair and anger they feel—how our apathy is killing us, how we are frightened to think about what the world may be like for our children, and how those who have the most power seem to be doing the very least, while the most vulnerable pay the price. We marched, chanting about climate action, gesturing to people in tall office buildings to come join us, marvelling at the surge of energy around us and the clean air we breathed.

Even though people came for such diverse reasons, what really mattered was that we were all there. This was not a rally that clearly pushed for any specific political or personal change to be done. But some people wore buttons that said, “We are many,” and I think in the hours of the strike, our numbers were a message themselves.

We were reminding ourselves that we are not alone in our desire for a sustainable earth. We were helping each other be aware of how many ways people can be affected by climate change. We were sending a larger message to a disbelieving world that the effect humans are having on the earth is something we need to take action about, now. And I think that if the number of small kids at the rally means anything, then we will have people continuing our chants about climate action for years to come.

– Words and photos by Mackenzie Nicolle, CMU Social Sciences alumna, Senior Residence Assistant, and current graduate student