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Amherst students urge leaders to put planet before profit during worldwide student strike

AMHERST, N.S. – Chants of ‘Climate change is not a lie, do not let our planet die’ echoed throughout the streets of downtown Amherst on March 15, as 20 students from Amherst Regional High School marched to the offices of local politicians.

“We’re not going to sit idly by while they destroy our planet because it’s not just theirs, it’s our planet too,” said 15-year-old Grace Doncaster, a Grade 10 student at ARHS. “And when they’re no longer here we’re going to have clean up their mess and deal with the harm they did to our environment.”

Her message was heard across the planet as tens of thousands of students in more than 100 countries took part in school strikes against climate change.

In Amherst, the students protested in front of town hall, along with the offices of Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin, MLA for Cumberland North; and Bill Casey, MP for Cumberland-Colchester.

Dan Osborne, a 15-year-old, Grade 10 student at ARHS, took to the streets as well.

“Our message is that we want both the provincial and federal government to take young people into account when they’re making decisions on environmental policy and when they’re making agreements with businesses,” said Osborne. “Because a lot of the time it seems they’re just making messes that our generation has to clean up when we’re adults.”

Osborne says those messes include the clear cutting of forests.

“We used to have strong regulations that the previous provincial NDP and Conservative governments put in place, but now we’re seeing those regulations ditched or not enforced,” said Osborne. “There’s a massive clear-cut in Wentworth, and I remember driving through there before it was clear-cut and it was the most beautiful thing. Future generations aren’t going to have that if all the trees are gone.”

Doncaster would like to see single-use plastics eliminated in Nova Scotia.

“We’re producing all this trash by using plastic bags and plastic utensils, so we would love to see a ban on the sale of those,” said Doncaster. “We would also like to see the provincial government declare a state of climate emergency because that would affirm and acknowledge that this is a problem and this is something we’re going to address.”

Both are against Northern Pulp mill’s plan to build a 15-kilometre pipeline that would carry treated effluent from their Pictou County plant into the Northumberland Strait.

“It isn’t good for Nova Scotians, it isn’t good for Prince Edward Island, it’s not good for people who fish, and it isn’t good for people who have houses along the strait,” said Osborne.

If the pipeline isn’t built the mill could be scrapped and thousands of jobs, direct and indirect, could be lost.

“I don’t believe we have to pit the environment against the economy. We can replace the jobs with jobs that are better for the environment,” said Osborne. “We can create similar jobs for people with those skill-sets that are cleaner for the environment.”

Doncaster agrees.

“It’s not a pick-a-side issue. We should be focusing on environmental sustainability within our workforce and not just cutting off all those jobs.”

Both say the time to act is now.

“If the temperature rises like the United Nations is predicting and sea levels rise we’re going to have a lot of places like Amherst, like Pictou, like Halifax, where people aren’t going to be able to live anymore because the water will be too high,” said Osborne.

Doncaster and Osborne went into town hall to speak to mayor David Kogon and, also, into the offices of both Smith-McCrossin and Casey to ask them to come outside and speak to the students.

Smith-McCrossin was working in the provincial legislature at the time of the protest, and Casey and Kogon were out of the office at the time of the protest.

“They weren’t available today but we hope to speak with them at a later date and create dialogue with them,” said Doncaster.

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