Experts: The return of ‘Fridays for Future’


Published: 25Sep2020

While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to overshadow most other topics in 2020, Canadian activists are joining demonstrators around the world to bring climate change back into the conversation. Protests, walkouts, and sit-ins are expected to take place in several Canadian cities, including Vancouver, Ottawa, Montreal, and Halifax, on Friday and Saturday to mark the return of the global Fridays for Future movement led by Swedish activist Greta Thunberg. (CTV News)

Here are some experts from McGill University that can provide comment on this issue:

Christopher Barrington-Leigh, Associate Professor, Institute for Health and Social Policy and School of Environment

A lot of young people are overwhelmed with the future we continue to pass on to them. Happily, the post-transition world is going to be a better life for everyone, and Canada is at a tipping point at which unilateral action, for the first time, makes economic sense.”

Christopher Barrington-Leigh is an Associate Professor cross-appointed to the Institute for Health and Social Policy and the School of Environment and an Associate Member in the Department of Economics. His research makes use of subjective well-being reports to address the relative importance of social and community-oriented aspects of life as compared with material consumption.

chris.barrington-leigh [at] (English, French)

Dror Etzion, Associate Professor, Desautels Faculty of Management

Youth engagement on sustainability issues is perhaps the most powerful force in the world for creating change: As Al Gore once said, it is the ultimate “renewable energy”. Therefore, as a society, we should commend and support their bravery and commitment. The students would be wise to prepare some thoughtful answers – or maybe even pre-empt – the questions that are bound to rise regarding the wisdom of conducting demonstrations in the current state of the pandemic.”

Dror Etzion is an Associate Professor of Strategy and Organizations at the Desautels Faculty of Management and an Associate Member of the School of the Environment. His work suggests that managing for sustainability through local, open, emergent initiatives increases the recruitment of diverse stakeholders, fosters creativity, and yields impactful outcomes.

dror.etzion [at] (English, Hebrew)

Blane Harvey, Assistant Professor and William Dawson Scholar, Department of Integrated Studies in Education

The ‘Fridays for Future’ marches remind us that, despite the global focus on the COVID-19 pandemic, the climate crisis continues to worsen. Youth in Montreal and worldwide are calling for real action on this crisis, and for a stronger voice on the issue. The fact that they must take to the streets to get this message across highlights the lack of opportunities available to young people – through their schooling, or through federal and provincial politics – to be heard.”

Blane Harvey is an Assistant Professor and William Dawson Scholar in the Department of Integrated Studies and an Associate Member of the School of Environment. As an interdisciplinary scholar who works across the social and natural sciences, her research pertains to how climate change knowledge is produced, validated and communicated, and how facilitated learning and knowledge sharing can support action on climate change.

blane.harvey [at] (English, French)

Renée Sieber, Associate Professor, Department of Geography and School of Environment

"Even in a time where virtual activism predominates and protects individuals' health, physical protest remains important. Technology cannot replace all the cues that one receives from participating: a sense of common interest by being able to look around, see and hear the interests that you share. Virtual activism fails to build strong social ties and is less durable because it usually requires less commitment on the part of the participant than physical activism. This is especially important for youth, who may feel otherwise socially isolated and unable to effect change in a world out of their control."

Renée Sieber is an Associate Professor cross-appointed to the Department of Geography and the School of Environment and an Affiliated Member of the School of Computer Science. Her research focuses on rewiring geographic information systems for social change, tools for urban and sustainable development and virtual activism.

renee.sieber [at] (English)

Emily Sprowls, PhD candidate, Department of Integrated Studies in Education

Young Montrealers are not losing sight of their future beyond the current global pandemic, and they continue to build momentum in their calls for urgent climate action and justice. As educators and education researchers, we need to keep working to support students’ demands to reform our education systems to reflect the urgency of our climate and ecological crises. We must not miss the opportunity to listen to youth’s voices as they imagine new ways we might learn to build a sustainable future for Montreal, Canada and the world.”

Emily Sprowls is a PhD candidate in the Department of Integrated Studies in Education. Her research involves youth-led environmental education and citizen science.

emily.sprowls [at] (English)

Klara Winkler, Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Natural Resource Sciences

The climate march is an important sign to show everyone that we need to transform our society because climate change will have more severe environmental, social, and economic consequences. We haven’t used the opportunities during the COVID-19 crisis to initiate fundamental changes.”

Klara Winkler is a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Natural Resource Sciences, where she focuses on social-ecological systems research and sustainability sciences, sustainability transformation and human-nature relationships.

klara.winkler [at] (English, German)

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