From September 20 to 27, the whole Earth echoed with chants, shouts, and footsteps as millions of people marched together in cities, towns, and villages across the globe to demand action on climate change from world leaders. The sheer scope of these demonstrations was astonishing; on the Friday of the global strike, people spilled onto Canadian streets in the hundreds of thousands, with some estimates suggesting that half a million people participated in Montreal alone.
As I marched down the streets of downtown Toronto during these Canada-wide climate strikes, I was surrounded by 10,000 faces of every age, race, gender, and creed, each crying out in solidarity for justice, for compassion, and for action on the part of the leadership in this country and across the world. I saw one sign that perfectly captured how I felt: “We’re rising so sea levels don’t!” It was as though we were part of a flood of biblical proportions, a swelling ocean of human fear, grief, and righteous anger, rising in our millions to cleanse the world of the apathy and cynicism of the powerful.
Now, though, Climate Week is over; our flood waters have subsided (for the time being), and what has been left in their wake? The world seems unmoved; politicians who made a great show of applauding our efforts, marching with us, and taking campaign selfies with us, have now returned to their seats of power, and show no sign of genuinely listening to our pleas. The possibility of achieving the massive economic, industrial, and systemic changes imperative to the continued survival of human civilization seems as remote today as it did a year ago, perhaps even more so. My peers and I are exhausted; there are no words to describe the anguish of watching a generation’s hope turn to grief as the inevitable march of time brings us closer each day to the brink of an unprecedented global catastrophe.
Even in the midst of despair, though, blessing springs forth as though from the empty tomb. Even in moments when we feel that there is nothing left to do but to weep and rage at the apparent hopelessness of this struggle, we must remember: We are the church. We are Christ’s disciples. We feel a call reverberate deep within us, within the very cells of our bodies, a call to do something so utterly absurd and incomprehensible that sometimes it feels almost laughable—a call to believe in God’s promise that a day will come when the Earth will know justice, the hungry will be fed, the poor will be liberated, and all the world will live in peace.
Even when all seems lost, even when hope turns sour, even and especially at the foot of a ragged, bloodstained cross, we take heart: God has not yet said the final Word. Our sacred mission, that which sustains us, heals us, and reminds of the unrelenting love of our Creator, is to march on, and to work towards justice, peace, and compassion even when the way is rough and the horizon is foggy. As Jesus taught his followers to say so long ago: “Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”
—Aidan Legault is a member of St. Peter’s United Church in Sudbury, Ontario. He has worked as a Youth Program Coordinator with The GO Project, which runs nation-wide summer programming aimed at empowering children, youth, and young adults to faithfully work towards meaningful change in their communities. He is currently working toward his M.Div. at Emmanuel College.
For more information about how you can support youth in your faith community participating in the next global climate strike on November 29, 2019, see our Climate Strike: Fridays for Future Take Action.