About 100 people gathered and marched in Parksville on Sunday for climate justice, part of a global effort ahead of the Paris talks this week that will involve 150 world leaders.
Before hitting the streets with signs on their way to the waterfront, the crowd listened to a variety of speakers at the Parksville Community and Conference Centre urge action at home and abroad.
“It seems like people are waking up,” said Brian Pasquill, the president and CEO of a company (Recap Power Works) that offers renewable energy solutions. “Awareness is starting to happen — people care and now we have the technology to do it.”
Pasquill spoke about things people can do in their own homes to save energy, including the use of LED lights.
“We have to start in our homes with our own energy consumption,” he said.
The Town of Qualicum Beach’s director of planning, Luke Sales, also urged people to do what they can in their homes and lives.
“At a personal level, there’s a lot we can do,” he said.
Sales pointed to transportation as “the No. 1 challenge we have,” citing statistics that show 60-70 per cent of all greenhouse gas emissions come from fossil-fuel-burning vehicles. He said politicians have “competing priorities” and need to hear from the public that combating climate change is a priority.
Sales also said the most common reason cited for the lack of action on climate change is it’s too expensive and the economy is too fragile.
“We can’t afford not to take action on climate change,” he said.
Courtenay-Alberni MP Gord Johns also provided some remarks for the gathering before hopping on a plane to Ottawa.
“The new Liberal government has made important commitments to Canadians and the world, but words must be backed by real action,” said Johns. “The climate conference in Paris will only be considered a success if countries agree on binding emission reduction targets, concrete plans and credible accountability mechanisms for reaching these targets and assisting the developing world with transition and climate mitigation.”
Electric-car-maker Randy Holmquist also spoke about the need to make changes at home. His company, Canadian Electric Vehicles, has been making electric cars for 25 years.
“We’re just this little company in Errington, but we can make a difference,” he said.
Rev. Andrew Twiddy of the Anglican parish of St. Anne and St. Edmund in Parksville spoke about his experiences recently in Rome and the leadership being shown on climate justice by Pope Francis. “If we carry on with business as usual we will not have a sustainable planet to do business as usual,” said Twiddy.
Qualicum First Nations Chief Michael Recalma opened up the meeting with a welcome and this: “We have a chance to help Mother Nature.”
The Parksville rally was one of more than 2,300 events scheduled on Sunday, the eve of the Paris summit. People marched all over Canada to send a message to the new government that climate action is a priority.
There were at least six other marches scheduled on the Island and more than 2,400 people are registered in Vancouver. It was unclear who organized the Parksville event, which was emceed by Anne O’Sullivan, who asked for donations because she said she paid for the hall. The NEWS also received e-mails about the event from local members of Avaaz, which means ‘voice’ in several European, Middle Eastern and Asian languages. According to its website, Avaaz launched in 2007 “with a simple democratic mission: organize citizens of all nations to close the gap between the world we have and the world most people everywhere want.”