A Vancouver-based environmental charity is making a satirical push to lower the voting age to eight to underscore the importance of protecting future generations from the effects of climate change.
The David Suzuki Foundation launched the campaign Monday, dubbed “18 to 8,” with a website calling for voters to listen to young voices and “prioritize a livable climate over all other issues” in this fall’s election.
“When you get into the voting booth on October 21, vote with your inner child,” the site reads.
The group has also released a video that, while humorous, shows kids taking to the streets to protest against their extinction. The clip opens with two girls playing patty-cake, asking how many years they “have left.”
“Climate scientists are saying we now have only 12 years left to act if we want to avoid catastrophic damage,” a boy says in the ad, referencing a 2018 report from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change calling for dramatic action to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
The video also features cameos from several Canadian celebrities, including singers Chantal Kreviazuk, Serena Ryder, and Blue Rodeo’s Jim Cuddy, saying it’s time to “let the kids vote.”
The David Suzuki Foundation said in a release that while the group does not actually want children to vote, they believe adults should vote with the best interests of young people in mind.
“By suggesting eight-year-olds would vote with more wisdom than adults when it comes to prioritizing climate change, we are trying to playfully show that many adults simply are not giving climate change the attention it demands right now,” the foundation’s CEO, Stephen Cornish, said in the release.
The group is also asking Canadians to sign a voter pledge demanding that, among other things, the next government ensures “a livable planet for our children” and implements a climate plan to meet Canada’s international commitments.
Under the Paris climate accord, Canada committed to a 30 per cent cut in emissions from 2005 levels by 2030. Despite the pledge to reduce emissions, the government isn’t doing enough to combat climate change, according to the former environmental commissioner.
Watch: Green Party Leader Elizabeth May delivers impassioned speech during climate debate
Brendan Glauser, the group’s associate communications director, told HuffPost Canada the campaign was inspired by the global youth climate movement, including Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old Swedish climate activist who has sailed across the Atlantic Ocean on a zero-emissions vessel. Thunberg plans to attend the United Nations Climate Action Summit in New York next month.
“We’re really trying to crank up the urgency and send a message to voters that climate change isn’t something that’s happening next generation or next decade,” Glauser said. “It’s here and now and we need to start prioritizing it.”
Glauser said that while environmental groups sometimes face blowback for trying to leverage children, it’s young people who are so often in the “driver’s seat” on this issue.
“If they’re going to be bold and courageous enough to take this on, it’s our role to rise up and support them,” he said.
NDP, Greens want voting age lowered to 16
The campaign has launched as two federal parties — the New Democrats and the Greens — are earnestly calling for the voting age to be lowered from 18 to 16.
“Research has shown that if they start voting at a younger age they will continue voting longer,” May said in the House of Commons at the time. “If someone has not started voting before the age of 25, that individual will not start voting at 30. The evidence is clear.”
The NDP’s “New Deal” platform also advocates a voting age of 16. The document notes that many young people are worried about catastrophic climate change and inequality.
“It’s no surprise: often they can see themselves paying the biggest price for the decisions governments are making today. Young people can and should have a say in their future,” the platform states. “Simply put, if you are old enough to work and pay taxes, you are old enough to have a say in who forms the government.”
Canadians are expected to head to the polls on Oct. 21.