Activists strip for climate change at Dalhousie

Almost-naked protest the latest in many climate change rallies organized at the university

Students affiliated with the Canadian Youth Delegation shed their clothes to raise awareness for climate change outside the Dalhousie Student Union Building. (Photo: Peter de Vries)

About 10 climate change activists danced, shouted, and stripped down to their undergarments to raise environmental awareness in the Dalhousie Student Union Building at noon on Tuesday.

The activists, all members of Canadian Youth Delegation (CYD) - a climate change advocacy group organized by students across the country - pranced down the stairs from the third floor of the SUB fully clothed. One of them started playing "Under Pressure" by Queen and David Bowie on speakers while the others huddled together, dancing to the music.

About a minute into the song, they stripped most of their clothes and exited the SUB as a group. Most of them had climate change slogans and art written on their bodies in paint. They continued their chants outdoors.

"What do we want? Climate justice! When do we want it? Now!"

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Posters held by students during their climate change protest at the Dalhousie Student Union Building. (Photo: Peter de Vries)

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Students affiliated with the Canadian Youth Delegation stripped down to their bathing suits in the Dalhosuie Student Union Building, danced to Queen and then ventured out into the cold to raise awareness for climate change. (Video: Katie Rankin and Peter de Vries)

CYD's action coincides with COP16 - the United Nations climate change conference in Cancun, Mexico. Brittany Maguire, CYD's home team leader for Halifax and third year environmental studies student at Dalhousie, says Canada's federal government is doing nothing to prevent climate change.

"Whatever (the federal government) says they're doing, they're clearly not," she says. "(The federal government) doesn't want post-Kyoto commitment."

Canada is legally bound by the Kyoto protocol to cut its emissions by six per cent by the end of 2012.

Maguire says stripping down for climate change is a way of voicing her sense of shame about her government's stance on the issue.

"We're more embarrassed about Canada's actions on climate change than we are about getting close to naked in the Student Union Building and running around shouting about it," she says.

"None of us really enjoy protesting or making fools of ourselves but we feel like we have to do something. We can't just sit there, write exams and pretend (climate change) isn't happening every year."

Luke George Branson, one of the activists, says he's stripping down to protest the elimination of Bill C-311 - a bill that would've required the federal government to cut emissions 25 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020 - by the Senate. Canadian senators aren't democratically elected. They're appointed by the Governor General based on the Prime Minister's advice.

"There wasn't any pretense of democracy there. It's just terrible and we need to pay attention to it," he says.

A group of students at the University of Guelph performed a similar action about two weeks ago, stripping down to their undergarments in a campus cafeteria while holding signs and dancing to music. Maguire says CYD is following their lead at Dalhousie.

CYD organized flash mobs for climate change on many Mondays last year on Dalhousie property. The group's protests were part of "Climate Mob Mondays" - a collaborative flash mob campaign that pressures the Canadian government to "take strong action on climate change at home."

CYD helped organize the Halifax People's Assembly for Climate Justice - a public forum on what climate justice means for Nova Scotians - on Saturday with the Halifax chapter of the Council of Canadians.

CYD organized a letter-writing party at the College of Sustainability on Friday. Maguire says she has more than 50 letters to send to Prime Minister Stephen Harper from the event.

CYD will continue their protests tomorrow with a rally at 10 a.m. called "Give Climate Peace a Chance" in the atrium of Dalhousie's Killam library. Students will bring bedsheets, blankets, pillow and dress in their pajamas as a reference to John Lennon's bed-in for world peace.

The bed-in protest will coincide with the 30th anniversary of John Lennon's death on Dec. 8, 1980.

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