Just after noon on Friday, local students and residents gathered outside of the Orillia City Centre as part of a worldwide Fridays for Future event to encourage governments to step up and create a more sustainable environment.
The group of about 30 chanted ‘What do you want? Climate action! When do you want it? Now!' while carrying signs and marching toward Mississaga Street to the sound of many drivers honking their horns in support.
Blythe Wieclawek, a 16-year-old Twin Lakes Secondary School student, was one of the youth organizers who wanted to do something on Friday in conjunction with the Global Day of Climate Action.
“We are here today to spread our messages to the City of Orillia. We are here to urge them to set ambitious, science-based targets for our (local) climate change action plan and to make sure we are very far ahead of the federal targets,” she said.
Wieclawek says as a young person it’s important for her to be engaged with environmental decisions that are being made for the future.
“These decisions that are being made today are going to be set in stone and put in place for us far into the future. As a young person, it’s really important that we give our input so that we don’t get into the future and realize it’s too late," she explained.
Nathan Mcclinchey, a 16-year-old Orillia Secondary School student, was also on hand to participate in the event as he believes tackling climate change is more important than ever
“The youth need to show that it’s important to us because our future depends on it,” he said.
Mcclinchey says he hopes the City of Orillia will step up accountability to ensure a greener place to live.
“If you pollute and put carbon into the atmosphere, you should do something to clean up that pollution,” he said.
Weiqi Xu, a 15-year-old Twin Lakes student, attended Friday’s event in an effort to ensure his voice is heard.
“These are the people who make the decisions and have the power to make a difference. They know we care; they are willing to listen to us, and they need that extra push to make ambitious targets that make sure our future is secured,” he said.
Renee Recoskie, the city's manager of property and environmental sustainability, was on hand to support Friday’s gathering.
“We are happy to see the community’s support for climate action, it’s really great,” she said.
“This younger generation who is here today is going to be crucial to actually implementing and seeing those actions through.”
Recoskie says municipal officials hear the voices of those who were at Orillia City Centre on Friday, and stressed their concerns are not falling on deaf ears.
“The way the youth have mobilized in Orillia is really encouraging to see while we are working on our climate change action plan,” she said.