So today I went out to see the Edmonton portion of the #StudentStrike4Climate. Aside from learning that I am not a very protesty kind of advocate, I saw a few hundred people getting together in the sun (read: slightly above freezing temperatures) and chant at the closed front doors of the Alberta Legislature. Instead of joining in the main group I walked around with my sign and talked to people on the fringes of the group. I chatted with some elderly people who were there to support the students, some scientists who worked nearby who decided to drop by on their lunch hours, a few students and some vegan activists who were adding their voices to the calls for climate action.
And that was the weird part. The students were at the center, riled up and angry. And out on the edges were the people like myself hoping to influence them. Whether it was passive or active seemed irrelevant. It was like the various groups hanging out on the edges were the mystery doors from Lets Make A Deal. I spent a while trying to unpack how I felt about that realization, but then I remembered that these are all students, and at this point in their lives it’s their entire purpose to open those option doors and see what’s behind them. Luckily for them they don’t have to choose before opening them.
So armed with my trusty sign I wandered around and talked to any who showed interest in talking with me. When people did come up to me, the first thing I did was ask “So what do you know about nuclear power?” The majority answer was “not much really.” I wish I could say that I then launched into a masterful explanation that left people around me weeping on their knees at the knowledge I bestowed. Sadly, the closest I came to that was when a nice lady saw that I had dropped my glove behind me and had bent over to pick it up for me.
Instead, I had several great talks with people attending the event and from every one of them I heard the phrase “that’s interesting, I didn’t know that before.” It didn’t matter if it was about waste, or land usage, or energy density, or deep geological repositories, there is always something that people can find out and become interested, if not excited, about learning more about. They just haven’t been given a reason to be curious about nuclear energy before.
I’ve talked with some people about how this Student Strike movement doesn’t seem to have any defined goals, or isn’t trying to pull a definitive plan from legislative bodies. But what it is is a fertile soil to sow information. If we speak the truth about our goals, and treat these students as adults and equals- not tell them to follow, but ask them to search for themselves- I am confident that they can see the truth about nuclear and not the obfuscation and misinformation that has shrouded the industry for so long. Because the truth is the truth, even if no one believes it.