Kjipuktuk (Halifax) – June 7, 2019
At approximately 8:30 a.m. on Thursday, June 6, a group of climate activists disrupted rush-hour traffic by biking far below the speed limit. Adorned with signs and flags advocating for climate action, they chanted songs like “11 years to switch the gears” and “what do we want? Climate action!” through the cacophony of car horns.
The group began their trek by slowly circling the Armdale Rotary two times. As a long line of commuters collected behind them, the group headed west on Chebucto Road, blocking both lanes of traffic. They continued south down Robie Street and turned onto Bell Road at the intersection, then ended their journey at Citadel High when a police officer flagged them down. No arrests were made. Overall, the group disrupted traffic for almost an hour.
The activists that were involved are members of Extinction Rebellion (XR), a global movement for climate action. The movement calls for a rapid shift to renewable energy in response to the imminent threat of climate breakdown. According to XR, Canada has not done enough to combat climate change, despite recognizing it as a global threat.
Today, Canada ranks as one of the highest per-capita emitters of greenhouse gases, and in 2017 a quarter of Canada’s emissions were from the transportation industry. XR’s disruption of Halifax traffic was intended to bring awareness to these issues, in a way that would force people to listen.
“I participated in today’s action because I want to get everyone’s attention about the climate crisis,” one of the activists commented. “And to tell them that XR is here in Halifax.”
Halifax recently declared a climate emergency, making it the second city to do so in all of Canada. Declaring a climate emergency does not require any special action on the city’s part, however. Halifax has done little else to address the climate crisis, which is concerning for a city so close to the ocean. Recent climate reports predict that sea levels will rise by 1 metre in the next century, putting Halifax’s beloved waterfront underwater. XR is demanding more climate action from Halifax, and is urging citizens to be more vocal about the issue.
Despite the recent increase in climate advocacy, proposals to move away from fossil fuels, decarbonize transportation, and expand public transit have been met with passivity, and at times ridicule. The general population is still opposed to sustainable transitions that change daily life. However, civil disobedience and direct action remain effective tools in raising awareness and combating eco-destructive habits, such that sustainable alternatives can become preferable.
The XR chapter of Halifax disrupted traffic to publicly advocate for climate action and act against the destructive necessity of daily commutes in carbon-emitting personal vehicles. As traffic disruptions like this one ramp up in frequency, perhaps commuters will find it more convenient to use less destructive ways to get to work.