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Sustainable Missoula: High school students fight for the climate, and their lives

Missoula high school students have rallied for climate action before, including the 2017 People’s Climate March and Rally. (Courtesy photo)

Friday, March 15 is a momentous day — a day of global youth action called Youth Strike for Climate, a movement launched when a single teen — Greta Thunberg — began skipping school to distribute homemade fliers outside the Swedish parliament.

Greta, who has just been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, says via social media: “Friday we school strike for the climate in 1,769 places in 112 countries around the world. And counting.  Everyone is welcome. Everyone is needed. Let’s change history. And let’s never stop for as long as it takes.”

Missoula youth are joining in — they’ll be at the courthouse downtown at 1:30 Friday. Here’s why:

We have a long future ahead of us which we want to preserve, and climate change threatens that future — not just for us, but for the entire planet. Our goal with today’s walkout is to raise awareness and call for action on the local, national and international level.

We are frustrated that climate change has been politicized. It is a public health and humanitarian issue, and we want it to be treated like one, with action and solutions from people of all political beliefs. We want our representatives in government to act for the health and safety of America’s young people and the generations to come. We deserve a future where our health and the places we live are not at risk. We want to be able to enjoy the Montana wilderness for years to come — skiing, hiking, backpacking. Climate change puts all this at risk.

This walkout is part of a series of international school walkouts that have been taking place on Fridays in Europe. The March 15th walkout will be the biggest demonstration so far, with tens of thousands of schools expected to participate. In the United States, one specific aim of the March 15th strikes is to promote a Green New Deal that will help the communities that have been most affected by climate change.

A broader purpose of this walkout is to demand new education requirements surrounding climate change and sustainability. Young people in Missoula, feeling we have a duty to support international climate actions, are participating. Groups at Big Sky and Hellgate high schools are committed to this movement, and we hope that with our demonstrations there will be increased awareness and future demonstrations on even larger scales.

The purpose of the climate walkouts are not to protest the education system. We understand that this system is crucial, but sadly, one of the only methods for young people to gain national attention is by leaving school. Although missing school is an action that does have consequences, Hellgate students have come to the conclusion that it is necessary.

Hellgate High School’s environmental group, Students Against Violating the Environment (SAVE), is dedicated to promoting sustainability within Hellgate and the Missoula community. SAVE sees the climate walkouts as a way to broaden the impact of the club’s actions to a more international scale and include many other students from Hellgate in the movement.

School walkouts are not a solution to climate change, but they represent the desire of young people around the world, and young people are the future. We hope these worldwide walkouts bring immediate political change to address climate change and international sustainability.  The youth that lead these movements will soon be the people who lead governments throughout the world. And we plan to vote!

And From the Big Sky High School LEAF Club (Leave Earth As Found):

Montana is a beautiful place to grow up. There are amazing forests, wildlife, lakes and rivers. It is unfathomable to us that we have been given this place to gaze upon and explore. With increasing carbon emissions and resulting climate change, the rivers and waters we know and love will shrink and the wildlife we rely upon will die.

We are at a crucial tipping point and, as it is our future on the line, it is our job to change our lifestyle. We live in a world of over-consumption and over-pollution. Our own behavior is drowning us. This reality is right in front of our noses, yet we are blinded by ignorance and fear. If we don’t change, no one is going to. It’s our future, and to survive we need to fight for it. If we don’t, nothing good will be left.    

The youth are acting.

Ella DeGrandpre and Wren Cilimburg are from Hellgate High School’s SAVE club and the Big Sky High LEAF club.

This Sustainable Missoula column is brought to you – via the Missoula Current – every Friday by Climate Smart Missoula and Home ReSource.

Upcoming Sustainability Events: 

March 16 & 18. Community dialogues on 100% Clean Energy for Missoula: A Livable Missoula for All. March 16, 9 am – 12 pm at Home Resource & March 18, 6 – 9 pm at Missoula Public Library. Details and registration HERE.

March 21. Zero by Fifty Community Series: Glass. 5-7pm at Home ReSource.

March 21. Rising Tide. Scientists and artists collaborate in this performance to inspire reflection and action on global sustainability and climate change. 7:30pm at the Montana Theater at UM.

April 1. Refuge in a Changing World: Climate Change, Migration and Homeland Security. Public talk by journalist Todd Miller. 6:30pm, UC Theater at UM. Sponsored by Soft Landing Missoula, Climate Smart Missoula, JRPC and the University of Montana.

View more climate and energy events via Climate Smart Missoula’s Calendar.

There are many more conservation events for 2019 HERE.  

This Sustainable Missoula column is brought to you – via the Missoula Current – every Friday by Climate Smart Missoula and Home ReSource.