Opinion: Will water be on the table at the Climate Action Panel?

Since March, students have been inspired to protest about climate change.

In my interactions with organizers and placard wielders over the past few months, I have heard both fear and optimism. “We want to make a difference,” “It’s our future,” “Something has to change,” is a representative sampling of those feelings.

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Whether they’re in Grade 6 or Grade 12, the rationale the students have offered for wanting change isn’t subtle or sophisticated. Perhaps because they’re learning the ropes as they go, and perhaps because they see the issue simply: They don’t want subtlety, they don’t want platitudes. They want government to lead as if it’s an emergency. Isn’t that enough?

What they want local government to actually do is another story. Some want a ban on plastics, others want more public transit. One issue they seem to be silent on is water.

At the Sunshine Coast Regional District (SCRD), staff have underlined that water is a hyper local and worthwhile cause for eco-anxiety: A changing climate is putting an expiry date on the Sunshine Coast’s water supply.

At the recent Water Dialogues, Remko Rosenboom, SCRD infrastructure manager, called this summer’s situation “scary,” and outlined the extreme and expensive infrastructure projects needed to alleviate the crisis, calling the planned reservoir, for example, the Sunshine Coast’s largest-ever civil engineering project. Strong statements for an apolitical actor.

The board table, however, is a political animal. They’re answering to sections of the public who are fed up with Stage 4 water restrictions, worried about food security on the Coast, and exasperated that they are being forced to watch their gardens wither while government approves more development.

Directors are calling for a unified community and a “conservation culture” as those infrastructure projects get underway. They’ve even made a preliminary call for a “water emergency.”

This Saturday, students will have an opportunity to demand answers from local government at a public Climate Action Panel, which they organized, set to start at 1 p.m. at Elphinstone Secondary.

Water is the glaring example of how students can think globally and act locally. Maybe their unapologetic lack of subtlety can prompt local governments to lead locally on that front, too.


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