Students Take a Stand Against Climate Change


Credit: Shez Zangmo '20

Students all over the world are coming together to raise awareness of the imminent threats posed by climate change. The movement, now a global concern, has come home to Williston.

For the week beginning Friday, Sept. 20, students used their H block periods to congregate along Park Street and make their voices heard about the need for elected officials to take concrete steps to publicly address climate change.

According to Vox, there have been climate strikes in 185 countries. In New York, more than a million people gathered on Sept. 20 to protest.

Aside from protesting with posters and chanting, Williston’s student activists in the Sustainability Club are putting on events including representative calling parties, in which students call their local government representatives in order to get the reps to address the issue.

The protest is a local manifestation of the worldwide movement that began in August 2018, when 16-year-old Swedish climate change activist Greta Thunberg began skipping school and protesting outside Swedish parliament. On Sept. 23, Thunberg spoke at the U.N. Climate Action Summit in New York. Thunberg was nominated in March for a Nobel Peace Prize, according to The Guardian.

To get to the U.N. for the historic summit, and to reduce her carbon footprint, she took a 15-day transatlantic voyage on a solar powered racing yacht, The Guardian reported.

Thunberg’s address to the U.N. pulled no punches. “You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words, and yet I’m one of the lucky ones,” she said. “People are suffering, people are dying, entire ecosystem are collapsing. We are in the beginning of a mass extinction and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you!”

Experts at the World Wildlife Foundation say current extinction rates are between 1,000 – 10,000 times higher than the natural extinction rates, which means, according to their math, 10,000 species are going extinct every year. According to NASA, Arctic ice has decreased 12.8% each decade since 2012. Carbon dioxide levels in the air are at their highest in 650,000 years.

Here are some more stats that are getting activists blood boiling:

In 1950, the parts per million (ppm) of carbon dioxide in the air was 300 ppm. In the past 50 years it’s gone up to 420 ppm. Previously — in the past million years — the number never exceeded 300 ppm, according to NASA. Global sea levels have risen eight inches in the last century, which has accounted for more extreme weather events like hurricanes and tropical storms. In a report issued Sept. 25 by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, as reported by The New York Times, the world’s oceans are becoming hotter, which is contributing to massive storms, changing food webs and fish stocks, and rising acidity levels, among other problems.

On June 1, 2017, the United States officially withdrew from the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change — also called the Paris Agreement. President Trump at the time stated that the Paris Accord would undermine the economy.

Waving signs and shouting things like “Climate change affects everyone, this is our future!” a group of students from all ages gathered in front of the chapel at 9:30 in the morning. The Willistonian went to the rally on Tuesday, Sept. 24 and spoke with Elsa Frankel ’23, who believes that it is important to raise awareness about global warming and making the world a better place.

“The truth is we all can have an effect on our world,” she said.

Senior Lila Schaefer, President of the Sustainability Club, was equally passionate about informing people about making positive changes to our environment.

“I wouldn’t say that we’re protesting,” she said, “I’d say that we’re just rallying to show the community. It is so important to send the message out to let everyone know what is happening to the environment.”