Ask the young people at Art City what they know about climate change and you’ll get a pretty straightforward answer.
"Us humans are changing the face of the planet," 13-year-old Evan says. "There is climate change, which is happening a little bit everywhere in the world, there’s ice melting... and (the) Amazon rainforest is currently burning in Brazil."
Evan, whose last name is being withheld because he is a child in care, was one of more than a dozen people making signs and painting a giant sculpture of Earth at Art City on Tuesday night in preparation for the climate strike set to take place at the Manitoba legislature today — the second event of its kind in Winnipeg in the past week.
The local strikes are organized by Manitoba Youth for Climate Action and are part of a global movement inspired by 16-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg. On Sept. 20, 250 students, teachers and adult allies held a "die-in" on the steps of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights to protest government inaction on climate change.
A large demonstration at the legislature isn’t something Art City would usually take part in, but artistic director Eddie Ayoub says this issue is too big to ignore.
"We don’t generally engage in anything... that would be construed as partisan," he says, "but I think that climate action goes far beyond any sort of partisan label. It’s really just about being awake and taking responsibility for ourselves and other people in the world."
The climate strike also fits with the non-profit organization’s 2019 programming theme, What the World Needs Now. And what the world needs now, according to Art City participants, is climate action, human rights, more love and more laughter.
To decide what they were going to build for the event, the West Broadway studio held a brainstorming and concept-drawing session last week. What came out were pictures of animals, nature and Earth.
"When you’re talking about what’s at stake you’re talking about scary things like mass-extinction events, which is maybe too scary to talk to young kids about. But if you start talking about things like animals that they love and their physical environment... that really hits hard," Ayoub says.
The team settled on building a replica of Earth out of wood, cardboard, string and paper. The planet will be hauled to the legislature grounds on a float and Ayoub hopes the structure will be a unifying force at the rally.
"It’s representing the thing that we all care so much about," he says.
"We’re not about traditional ways of protest, we’re not about pointing at anyone and making anyone in particular feel bad or look bad, we want to be positive."
On Tuesday, kids and adults were busy painting bright green land masses to the blue planet. Wearing a white smock with paintbrushes poking out of the pockets, workshop facilitator Rachel Schappert was helping refill paint palettes and making suggestions about which continents to tackle next.
"I’m really honoured to be a part of this," she says. "We’re really part of the community in a different way, where we can build a workshop like this around issues that are happening."
Schappert plans to attend today’s climate strike, which runs from noon to 5 p.m., and says she has been inspired by the young people around the world who have been the driving force behind the movement.
"It’s so poignant, and I get really emotional talking about it actually," she says.
For Evan, the reason he cares about climate change is as straightforward as his understanding of the issue.
"I care for the Earth a bunch, we need animals, oxygen and plants for the Earth to survive."
— with files from Maggie Macintosh
Eva Wasney reports on arts, culture and life for the Winnipeg Free Press.