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Walking out of the climate silence

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Walking out of the climate silence

PMHS students call New York State Senators demanding climate action legislation at school strike, March 15.

PMHS students call New York State Senators demanding climate action legislation at school strike, March 15.

PMHS students call New York State Senators demanding climate action legislation at school strike, March 15.

PMHS students call New York State Senators demanding climate action legislation at school strike, March 15.

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First, to make something clear: the international School Strike For Climate last Friday was led in the form of a walkout in Pelham, but it still existed as a part of a larger movement to strike. A strike is the refusal of a body of employees to work in an attempt to demand concessions from an employer or system of governance. As students, our current job is to attend an educational institution. Thus, a walkout is strike just like any other, ours with the purpose of calling for climate mitigation efforts on the part of our community and government. Just as workers sacrifice their paycheck and careers by striking, so too were students willing to sacrifice a period for detention or a call home from attendance to voice their opinions as a unified body advocating for environmental action.

Ultimately, the purpose of the walkout was not to raise awareness. Although less than 5 percent of Americans discuss climate change on a regular basis, the demonstration on Friday was not simply to break the climate silence. The purpose was to demand climate action from our local, state, and federal leaders, united as a global community of youth. It was to inspire a radical shift in thought and consideration towards sustainability in our personal lives and communities. We aren’t concerned that Pelham and the wider New York area isn’t green. The issue is that it’s simply not green enough.

What Greta Thunberg and hundreds of her contemporaries have called for is a climate revolution. The walkout in Pelham on March 15 may have been only half an hour with a small collection of kids, half of whom just wanted to cut class. But it was driven by a genuine passion for real change. It was not a desire to raise awareness but to raise fists in the air.

Slowly but surely, government at every level is beginning to take action against the climate crisis. The fact that most 2020 presidential candidates are routinely asked to take a position on the Green New Deal is a huge step in terms of prioritizing an environmental focus in office. Many Fortune 500 corporations are taking sustainability into account in social responsibility efforts. Power companies are gradually moving towards renewable energy as the price of fossil fuels rises. But the shift is not occurring quickly enough and we are still not moving in the right direction.

We demand that the federal government remove sanctions on the Environmental Protection Agency which prohibit even the mention of climate change on its website and online resources. We demand that the social media pages of organizations such as NASA are permitted to release their scientific research on climate change and its effects to the public. We demand that although the United States cannot officially leave the Paris Agreement until November of 2020, our country returns to the forefront of the international environmental conversation. New York City plans to divest $5 billion from fossil fuels and sue major oil companies, and we demand that unlike countless state, national, and international environmental pledges, New York is held accountable to that commitment.

I bought a cake at DeCicco’s yesterday and didn’t even have the option to use a plastic bag. Great. There are 700,000 inhabitants of New York City at risk of losing their homes in the next superstorm or inevitable sea level rise above the 10ft high tide mark by 2050.

97 percent of scientists agree that human-caused climate change is upon us – more than the percentage that agree on Einstein’s theory of relativity – yet only 49 percent of Americans believe that global warming is happening. Progress is being made but the reason 1.4 million students walked out of classes in 123 countries and 2,052 different locations on Friday, March 15 was because we are terrified. The efforts being made are so far from sufficient in addressing this global emergency, and half-assed awareness of the issue will not do.

Maybe walking out of classes and standing around in front of the high school is not the most effective road to revolution. But by spending time to call representatives to voice our desire for change in climate policy, students took tangible, simple actions to support their belief in a cause they found important, the most important. And I believe striking half an hour of class in protest to practice civic engagement and political empowerment is entirely worth the consequences. Especially in regards to saving the planet.

A counter-argument against walkouts can be found here.

About the Writer
Violet Massie-Vereker, Opinions & Ideas Editor

Violet Massie-Vereker is a senior at Pelham Memorial High School. Her experience in journalism includes writing for the News of Pelham for the past two...

2 Comments

2 Responses to “Walking out of the climate silence”

  1. Lauren on March 20th, 2019 1:48 pm

    You and your peers are doing amazing, paradigm-shifting work agitating for climate action. Please, please don’t let up! The vast majority of Americans stand with you. Read the book “This is an Uprising,” look to Momentum for more training to grow and escalate the movement. https://www.momentumcommunity.org/ History is on your side!

  2. Courtney on March 20th, 2019 2:24 pm

    March on kids! Lead the way! It was great to see so many young people all over the world standing up for what is right.

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