Lacombe Composite High School students engage in duelling protests over climate change

Students at Lacombe Composite High School stand out front of the school on Friday, Oct. 18, 2019 during a walkout protesting climate change. The event was organized by Grade 12 student Amanda Allison, right. Ashli Barrett / Lacombe Globe

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As Greta Thunberg rallied over 8,000 climate change protesters in Edmonton Friday afternoon, students at Lacombe Composite High School ditched class to take their own stand on climate change.

At 1:20 p.m., about nine students and one adult stood next to the road out front of the school, armed with signs in hopes they could spur climate change action on a local scale.

The walk out was organized by Grade 12 student Amanda Allison, inspired by Thunberg and the global climate strikes several weeks ago.

“I actually saw on Instagram that Greta was going to be in Edmonton and I just decided that, along with the whole entire walk out across the country – the globe, actually – that I wanted to host one at our school,” she said. “Even though we are in the heart of the oilfield industry in Alberta, I believe that there are things we can do to help change that and not completely rely on oil.”

The decision to host the walkout wasn’t popular with everyone, as Allison said she had threats of trash being thrown on her, but it only fuelled her reason behind protesting more. The more backlash there was, the more she decided it was a problem she needed to stand up against, and she was joined by eight others. More honked their support as they drove past the school.

It’s just their latest stance on climate change, as she said she tries to limit her own carbon footprint, and says her and her friends, including fellow protester Tasha Graysmayer, routinely clean up garbage around the school. The school itself – the reigning Greenest School in Canada – has its own environmental initiatives, from a beekeeping program, to hydroponics used to grow their own herbs, and the implementation of solar panels, and an agriculture program. She said they’re proud of the school and how its embraced environmental initiatives.

However, she says everyone can do more – locally and internationally – and that change needs to start happen now.

“It’s not just Canada – it’s a global thing. We need to make a change – we need to figure out better ways to do this, whether it’s learning how to transport it better , or even just cutting back the slightest bit,” she said.

“I do want us to cut back on oil, but unfortunately as a 17-year-old girl I cant’ change that. I believe there’s better alternatives, such as ethanol fuel – it’s been around for a really long time but we do not use enough of it and there’s nowhere you can purely fill up on ethanol.”

A group of counter-protesters starts to gather outside of Lacombe Composite High School during the climate change walkout on Friday, Oct. 18, 2019. The counter-protesters chanted “We love oil,” while others got in their trucks and revved their engines in front of the protesters. Ashli Barrett / Lacombe Globe

Students, however, proved to be just as divided as people in the rest of the province. As the United We Roll convoy drove to Edmonton from Red Deer to counter-protest, a group of about 15-20 students gathered in front of the school’s entrance, chanting “We love oil.” Some asked how the protesters got their food to the kitchen table, or what their hair products were made of.  A few students even got in their trucks they drove to school and revved their engine in front of the climate strikers.

“We like oil – we like diesels – because all of our vehicles run on oil, all of our products that we wear on our bodies got here with oil,” said Grade 11 student Ethan Holtz “We just don’t see the point in protesting against oil. Canada is oil minded.”

Canada, they said, isn’t the problem, pointing to the air quality. Canada is said to account for just 1.98 per cent of global emissions.

“We’re perfectly fine – we’ve got beautiful trees that keep us alive,” said Skylar Allarie, who is in Grade 12.

“I think it should be more of a foreign country thing because if you look at it,America, Canada, they’re not bad – it’s more the foreign countries that have the worst economy, not us,” said Michael Crouse, agreeing with many in the province that Canada’s “cleaner” technologies should be exported.

Allison said they have a right to their opinion, so long as they don’t attack people protesting against climate change.

“We’re out here and we see all these people backlashing and reving up our engines and stuff like that – our peers. That alone is so disgusting,” she said. “I don’t understand why you’d waste the fuel to drive up and down the street to kill our planet a little bit more.

“I believe we should start to carpool, transport better, take bikes, walk – we have these options, we just don’t care to use them anymore and it breaks my heart.”

Students at Lacombe Composite High School stand out front of the school on Friday, Oct. 18, 2019 during a walkout protesting climate change. Ashli Barrett / Lacombe Globe

Lacombe Police were on site at Lacombe Composite High School during the climate change walkout, standing between climate change protesters and counter-protesters. Ashli Barrett / Lacombe Globe

Students at Lacombe Composite High School stand out front of the school on Friday, Oct. 18, 2019 during a walkout protesting climate change. Ashli Barrett / Lacombe Globe

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