Sophia Mathur wants to prove the adults wrong. When she was 11, Mathur went on her first school climate strike, bringing Swedish activist Greta Thunberg’s Fridays for Future movement to Canada. Since then, the 15-year-old Mathur has been organizing climate protests in her hometown of Sudbury, Ont., introducing many young people to activism. Now, she and six other youth leaders are taking the Ontario government to court over climate change.
Origins I grew up in a family that was very climate conscious. My mom decided that she wanted to do her own lobbying while she was pregnant with me, and so when I was born, we were already doing small actions in the house. But as I got older — around seven or eight — my mom brought me to a conference and I learned it was a serious issue. So instead of going to the zoo with my dad while my mom went lobbying, I decided to tag along with her. I was giving out letters to politicians.
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Eventually I decided I wanted to do my own activism here in Sudbury. I would ask restaurants that I knew to stop automatically giving out plastic straws. In the summer of 2018, I heard about Greta Thunberg and wanted to do what she was doing. On Nov. 2 of that year, I did my first Fridays for Future strike. We’ve moved on to doing them weekly. We’ve held multiple events. And we even got the City of Sudbury to declare a climate emergency.
Action My classmates and I would strike at the end of the school day mostly, because we wanted to catch people when they were leaving work. If we did it in the morning, we wouldn’t get as much attention. It was actually kind of cool to see kids on the school bus cheering us on. The original message was that we won’t have a future to prepare for — so what’s the point of going to school?
Lawsuit Originally, we were told, ‘We don’t think your case can go forward for a multitude of reasons, including the fact that you can’t speak up for future generations.’ But then we won that motion to strike and we were able to continue on with our case. We don’t really know exactly what’s going to happen, but hopefully it works on our side. The case will probably continue for years; even if there is a new government, we at least know that this will be set in stone for future governments.
Generations One of the main things I saw when I was little is that younger kids have a greater impact than most people would think. Politicians are used to getting adult lobbyists constantly coming into their office, but when they see someone under 30 walk in, I feel like it’s inspiring for them — especially if it’s a seven-year-old kid drawing you a picture and telling you to take action on the climate crisis. I know some politicians that I lobbied back then that still have the pictures that I made for them. Even though some people think we’re not smart enough to speak up about this, a lot of people think we’re empowering and that we can make a difference because it’s our future that we’re fighting for.
More on Broadview:
- This environmental advocate leads youth through small actions and big ideas
- Can the courts save us from the climate crisis?
- Climate risk index shows threats to 90 percent of the world’s marine species
Outlook In the future, I do hope that I won’t have to worry about the climate crisis anymore. We aren’t doing this for the purpose of doing it forever. We do want there to be an end point at which governments are actually listening to science and promising to do things. Youth will always be here to make sure they’re following up with that. If adults vote for the right people and if we continue to push politicians, we will get there. If we keep sharing how horrifying our future could be if we don’t take action, we’re on the right track. It’s important to stay optimistic.
This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity. It first appeared in Broadview’s January/February 2023 issue with the title “Sophia Mathur.”
Tobin Ng is a recent Broadview intern. They live in Ottawa.
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