Walk to Waken the Nation About Climate Crisis

A smashed-up knee; stolen belongings; a dog attack; a run-in with a tractor trailer ; pain from fibromyalgia; threats from coyotes and wolves; a confrontation at an election campaign office; heat, cold, rain, gigantic gusts of wind; 3,300 kilometres and five months  — nothing has stopped Ann Cognito and her faithful Jamaican shepherd dog from walking through Canada to save the earth from climate change.

Ann Cognito and Mr. Myrtle Sir

Cognito, 50, is a life-long environmentalist, writer and “artist-in-general” with a history of disabilities and post-traumatic stress disorder. Originally from Edmonton, she now calls Calgary home.

That’s where she started her journey April 20, walking by herself and her 4-year-old dog, Mr. Myrtle Sir, on highways with the help of a scooter and tiny attached trailer to bring awareness about climate change to people along the way. She calls it “The Expedition – Walk to Waken the Nation”.

Her goal is to reach Parliament Hill in Ottawa and deliver a message and petition to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. She also plans to camp on the Hill, and “I’m not leaving until we have change,” she told JOURNEY Magazine during her stop in Nogojiwanong/Peterborough Sept. 20. She hopes to reach Ottawa by Oct. 6, if all goes well.

“This is to raise awareness and to take this to our government. It’s what we need to do if we are going to survive this,” said Cognito.

She’s been on her own on the road, but “the online support is huge, as well as the support of people I meet”. She’s been camping at truck stops, in people’s backyards and campgrounds, or staying in someone’s spare room. She tried ‘guerilla’ camping, but had to give that up because of wild animals.

“I can do this crazy thing and create attention and talk to people along the way — and I can darn well sit there (on Parliament Hill) until they listen.”

Cognito is asking people to sign the Extinction Rebellion (XR) petition demanding three actions from the federal government. XR is a citizen-led movement which started in England in 2017. It’s committed to non-violent civil disobedience to emphasize the grave danger of catastrophic climate change and the need for governments to reduce carbon emissions as quickly as possible. It launched in Canada a year ago.

the expedition, walk to waken the nation

XR’s Demands:

  1. Tell the truth about how deadly the climate crisis is.
  2. Reduce carbon emissions in Canada to net zero by 2025 and take further action to remove atmospheric carbon excess
  3. Create regional, national and international assemblies to make sure those things happen and to oversee the changes.

Cognito formed the Alberta XR last fall, but handed over its management to other organizers, while she concentrated on what her personal contribution to cause could be.

“So this is what I came up with. I can do this crazy thing and create attention and talk to people along the way — and I can darn well sit there (on Parliament Hill) until they listen.”

courtney, ness and ann
Trent students, Ness Pringle, left, and Courtney LaRocque, standing, both of Extinction Rebellion Peterborough, met Ann Cognito, right, and her dog, Mr. Myrtle Sir, when they arrived in the city

The election campaign office clash occurred in Peterborough when Cognito, along with local XR organizers and their supporters, visited the headquarters of each federal election candidate in the riding Sept. 18 to read the XR demands.

At the door of the Conservative candidate, Michael Skinner, a man from the group was allegedly pushed to the ground by a Conservative volunteer and injured. XR organizers were quick to point out that their groups aims to be peaceful and conflict-free.

Wendy Marrs of the Peterborough Alliance for Climate Action, recently wrote on Cognito’s face book page https://www.facebook.com/wakenthenation/ :

“Ann, We were privileged to meet you in Peterborough and are following your difficult journey…You have such an indomitable spirit and have touched so many people by your advocacy. We wish you godspeed and an easier path from now on. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for doing this and may you continue to be met with kindness.” 

To sign Cognito’s Petition: https://www.change.org/p/demanding-effective-response-to-climate-crisis-from-the-prime-minister-of-canada-and-the-canadian-government-the-expedition-walk-to-waken-the-nation

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