By Darren Lum
Quietly, demonstrators stood on the sidewalks, lined on either side of Bobcaygeon Road in the heart of Minden’s downtown, holding signs with slogans for a healthier world and questions challenging the government for passerbys to read and consider, related to combating climate change.
Organized by Concerned Citizens of Haliburton County, the climate change demonstration started with a little more than a dozen masked men and women, physically distanced, to do their part in raising awareness locally related to the FridaysforFuture Global Day of Climate Action held around the world on March 19.
Bonnie Roe, organizer of the local event in Minden, said this event is about keeping the public connected to the issues of climate change, which still persist during the pandemic, and how a little action can go a long way to helping the cause.
“Anything any of us can do is what we’re trying to promote awareness about and that can be simply the appliances you buy, reusing plastic bags, not buying disposable water bottles, reducing waste in the landfill sites, you know, walking more,” she said. “We can all do something and I think that’s what’s important. It’s pretty important we come together in solidarity and we need to push our governments to do something and that’s why the theme this time is #NOMOREEMPTYPROMISES. That’s the whole thing because that’s all we got. The government [says they] will be doing something in 2030 or 2050, but we need it now and that’s why other groups like ourselves and across the world are protesting today.”
Among the demonstrators that came to the Minden downtown between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. was Sheila Ziman. She stood on the bridge, holding her sign encouraging the protection of wetlands and said combating climate change requires education and that’s why she came out.
“I think the more people understand the relationship between a healthy environment and healthy people the better it is. Also, how serious a problem climate change is now. When I first moved here about 34 years ago there was a lot more snow. There were a lot more days that were colder. I can remember weeks when it was below minus 20, minus 25, so you could see [the change]. If you ask the old timers, they can tell you how the climate has changed,” she said.
She adds, 34 years ago gardening was challenged with multiple frosts, but now that has been reduced and there are at least three frost-free months.
Ziman is also concerned about the provincial government’s handling of protected areas such as provincially significant wetlands, as determined by the science-based ranking system known as the Wetland Evaluation System, which informs Ontario’s land use planning process.
“Because wetlands are so important in terms of storing carbon and we have so many wetlands in Haliburton, it’s really important for me that we maintain that protection. It’s part education. It’s part concern over what the government is doing in terms of walking back protections and disrespecting the protection they previously afforded wetlands,” she said.
One example that recently grabbed headlines was how the Ford government granted a minister’s zoning order (MZO) in October to allow for construction of an Amazon warehouse on Pickering wetlands near Duffins Creek, which is designated as provincially significant.
It’s reported Amazon had considered building a retail warehouse there, but did not sign a lease for the property and has decided against using the site because of environmental concerns. A spokesperson for Amazon said they did not request the MZO.
Ziman said it angers her when she sees wetlands get destroyed throughout Haliburton County because of the adverse effect it has, particularly in areas such as Minden where flooding has been an issue.
“Wetlands are like sponges so they hold that water and then they slowly release it so that’s important, but they’re also important, and I think people forget this, for drinking water because they help recharge the aquifers and it’s important to keep the quality of our drinking water good,” she said. “So, people sometimes forget that and they got a wetland on their property and they’ll just fill it. Dump the ol’ fridge in there and then their well is not too far away and so they forget that can lead to pollution of their drinking water. So, it’s all really important to protect wetlands.”
The inspiration for FridaysforFuture is related to teen activist Greta Thunberg, who started protesting the Swedish government on Fridays in August, 2018. There was also local inspiration by local teen activist Jurgen Shantz of Haliburton, who held four climate change protests outside the Dysart municipal offices, Roe said.
The day’s effort didn’t just include demonstrations in groups out in public, but also included people posting to social media to raise awareness and demonstrate the threat climate change poses. Although the Minden demonstration was capped at 25 people, Roe said, there were some potential demonstrators who weren’t able to make the event in Minden because of maple syrup production commitments.
Roe said there will be an effort to hold demonstrations like this throughout the county in the future rather than with past recent demonstrations, which were held in the village of Haliburton because the Concerned Citizens looked to encourage high school students and young people to join them.
Encouraging youth involvement will continue though, she adds.
“It’s their future,” she said.
For more information and how to be part of future efforts email Concerned Citizens at firstname.lastname@example.org.