South Burlington High School student Hanna Holm had never done anything rebellious before. But the stakes were high and the message an important one: Save our planet. Her mind made up, she ditched class to join the Global Climate Strike in Burlington on Friday, Sept. 20.
Around the country and the world, youths are calling on their adult counterparts to address climate change. Last week, 16-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg caught the world’s attention by going on a “climate strike” and skipping school to call on political leaders to save the planet. On Friday, South Burlington students joined the movement, attending the Vermont Climate Strike in Burlington.
As Holm left her classroom Friday, she threw a piece of chalk to the ground in protest – tipping chairs isn’t her style. And though her teacher was initially surprised she was cutting class, she was “really understanding” once she knew it was for the climate strike.
Holm’s friends congregated in the halls and walked to the bus stop. They had considered driving to the protest but realized the irony of emitting carbon while heading to a climate change rally.
“It was a bonding experience,” Holm said of the bus ride, adding her group had a great conversation with the driver. Hopping off at a stop near Church Street, they were greeted by a throng of people both young and old. Holm had to clamber atop a trash can to get a better view of the speakers near City Hall.
According to the Vermont Climate Strike website, at least three groups marched to the rally from Burton, UVM and Champlain College, with younger students coming up from around the state. Poets, musicians and speakers from various sectors such as local government, Migrant Justice and the Sunrise Movement addressed the crowd from 12-2 p.m.
Their goal? To make the day and following week of climate protests “unmissable,” the website says.
“It just made me happy to see so many people care,” Holm said. “It was just humbling to see so many people come out.”
Holms’ concerns about our planet’s future motivated her attendance.
“It’s really scary because I don’t know if there’ll be a world in 50 years,” she said. “You feel so powerless. At the same time, you’re the next generation, you need to push and not let people put you down.”
Holm tries to do her part and shrink her carbon footprint in her daily life. She says no to plastic bags and reminds her friends to compost.
“It’s not one big thing that needs to be done, but the little,” she said, adding everyone should do their part to help the planet.
But Holm also thinks change can and will occur on the national stage. Seeing the world’s response to Greta Thunberg has given her hope.
“Open up your ears, listen and talk less,” Holm implored politicians. “I think in the next election, politically, we will change it.
Tuttle Middle School students bus to rally
When Tuttle Middle School seventh and eighth grade science teacher Lauren Bartlett saw a climate strike was planned for Burlington, she knew she wanted to bring her students.
“In my opinion, events like these are far more important than any work I could teach in the classroom,” she said. “This particular issue is close to my heart, being a science teacher and feeling our world is in trouble.”
Bartlett asked to take her students to the rally, but her request, “sort of fell on deaf ears,” she said. Upon second request – to a different individual – the trip was approved for 20 students. She ended up with 22 students, unable to turn anyone away.
“Every kid that was there was invested in this,” Bartlett said. “Sometimes with an event like this you get the kid who just wants to skip school, I would say I had zero of those.”
In fact, her students gave up their late school start to get on an 8 a.m. bus and attend a youth activism talk at Main Street Landing. They then crafted posters, and later walked up to the rally on Church Street.
“Kids have a strength, if older folks will listen to them,” Bartlett said. “I hope the kids’ voices keep getting louder and louder and being heard.”
As for solving the problem of climate change, Bartlett says it should be a combined effort between individuals and politicians.
“There’s 7 billion of us around the world, if we all did our part that would be monumental,” she said. “But we definitely need large-scale action from our political leaders on this.”
Tuttle Middle School seventh grader Phinn Clason biked to the rally separately from his classmates. He’s concerned about climate change and felt the event was important.
“It’s probably possible to fix [climate change] but we really have to work for it,” he said.
Crowds at the rally were so thick it was hard for Phinn to move around. He’s encouraged by those numbers and similar efforts around the world.
“Tons of people know about it and hopefully it will make a difference,” he said.
In his own life, Phinn and his family do their part by biking most places. His family flies as infrequently as possible, and takes trains for medium-length trips, he said.
This past Sunday, Sept. 29, he traveled to a coal burning plant in New Hampshire where several climate change activists were arrested for their efforts. Phinn said he believes their arrests might draw greater attention to the issue.
“[Climate change] is very dire; it’s like a mass extinction,” he said. “We need to act on it.”