It is now 12 pm, and I am waiting at the main floor of Robarts library for my dear friend, Ayesha, to come down from the 10th floor. We agreed that this year we would try our best to catch up every now and then, between work and our studies. I pace next to the elevators, blindly watching students file into the elevators while others escape out of them. I watch for a moment. Some leave the elevators balancing books in their hands, while others dutifully carry their Starbucks drinks up to the study area, ready to conquer the pervasive beast of the academic world. “Ah, Robarts,” I think to myself. The grey prison-like building that students call home for much of the school year.
It is only the fourth week of classes and yet, I can see little signs of resignation coming from the students. People dragging their feet, many slowly giving up on trying to look picture perfect. Jeans, a blouse and a nice Fall coat paired with ankle boots? That’s the first week “you”. Joggers, a plain white T-shirt, and some runners? That’s the fourth week onwards “you”.
I notice Ayesha amongst the number of students leaving the elevators.
“So, how are you?” she asks after we embrace.
I shrug my shoulders, signaling that I’m neither overjoyed nor sad.
We quickly head over to the Arts and Science building to have lunch. I have a shift at the Student Union building at 1:30. When we finally settle down at a table, we notice a bright blue flyer on it. At first glance, it looked like a refined version of a drawing a child may have made.
“Oh! Are you going to this?” Ayesha asked excitedly, earnestly sticking the flyer in my face.
“What is it?” I ask, before taking the flyer out of her hands. It read:
GLOBAL CLIMATE STRIKE IN TORONTO
Queen’s Park – 11 am
“I don’t think I can go. This is tomorrow, and I have a class from 10 am-12 pm and then, a tutorial from 12 pm-1 pm. And then I have to head over to work from 1:15 pm -5:00 pm. I’m booked,” I explained.
“I think I’m going to go. I have work tomorrow, but I can go during my break. I’ll be there for both of us.” Ayesha said with a smile.
Later that day, I received a new email from my American History professor:
It has come to my attention that the Global Climate Strike will be going on during our time together tomorrow. I want to encourage all of you to go to these sorts of events, after all we will be looking into the Civil Rights Movement in the US tomorrow. Protesting and speaking up for issues concerning the future of this world is pivotal in causing change.
As a result, I would like to assure the students who are going to the protest tomorrow that the second half of the lecture will be recorded and posted onto the online site.
“Well that’s sweet of her,” I think to myself. It’s refreshing to see a professor who promotes “anarchy” against the system.
Before I could log off another email comes through. This time from my TA, Daniel:
After speaking to Professor Davis and the other TAs we have all agreed to cancel this week’s tutorials so as to allow you all to go to the protests without worrying about your participation mark for the class.
As Professor Davis said in her email, change comes from those who come together and use their voices to alert the leaders of the world of the issues that matter. Climate change is one of, if not the most, pressing issue of our time and I hope by canceling this week’s tutorial more students will head out there and help make a change!
I stare at the two emails for a while, re-reading them each time. In my four years at the University of Toronto, I never had a professor or a TA cancel class because of an event. More times than not, my friends and I have had to choose between going to a public event or social gathering and a lecture. The latter option usually won.
After reading the emails a couple of times over, I weighed my options. There really was no drawback to going to the protest. Now with the video recording and the cancellation of the tutorial, I could leave at 11 am and be back on campus by 1 pm before my 1:30 pm shift. Despite knowing this, a wave of indifference came over me, as I listed all the readings that had to be done.
“You will not have time to go back to the recording and write notes over this weekend. You have about 90 pages of reading to do for your seminar class,” I told myself.
“Besides, there will be more than enough people there. In all honesty, it just seems like protesting is in fashion for most people,” I reassure myself.
“Ok class, just to remind you, the second half of this class will be recorded, and we will have a break around the quarter to 11 mark. That way whoever has to go to the protest can leave for it then,” Professor Davis announced to the class at the beginning of the lecture.
10:45 am rolled around and sure enough, a good third of the class headed out to the protest.
“I wonder if some of them are just leaving for the sake of it and aren’t actually heading to the march,” I thought to myself.
Class ends, and I head over to work on the colossal amount of reading I have to do for my seminar course. On the way there, I see a few students carrying signs that read statements like “Climate change is real!” or “PROTECT THE FUTURE GENERATION”. I watch them for a moment before joining the herd of students heading to the library.
New attempts have been made at work to try to keep the office as orderly as possible. So when I get there and see Emma attempting to clean out the file cabinets in the main lobby, I clock in and head over to help her.
I glance over to the TV mounted on the office wall and notice Prime Minister Trudeau sitting in a closed room with Greta Thunberg, nodding along while she spoke to the public. He reminded me of a father looking proudly at his child, but who also wanted to remind her that she was still a kid who knew very little of the “real world”. Or of someone who was ready to yell “Amen!” after Greta’s every sentence.
I stopped for a moment and looked at him, absentmindedly shaking my head. “He’s nodding along with her when he is a clear supporter of the pipeline out west,” I whisper to myself.
“Politicians. They never really do anything,” I remind myself.
With that, I head back over to Emma who has now moved on to dusting and hands me a duster too.