Greta Thunberg has become the international avatar — in the dictionary sense, the “embodiment (as of a concept or philosophy)” — for young people fighting global climate change. It’s not just a concept or philosophy to 17-year-old Thunberg and her young cohorts. It’s a battle for survival in a world that indifferent adults have no interest in preserving for their human heirs, let alone all those other life forms threatened with extinction.
Thunberg may be at the symbolic forefront of the effort, but it will take a bold and persistent global army of likeminded young people to carry the message and insist on global responsibility.
There are many ways doing that. Some of our local high school students have chosen one of the most impressive, and perhaps most effective methods: involvement, presence and follow-through.
Recently, five Liberty Bell High School students visited the state Legislature, now in session, to lobby for several climate-change related bills that have been introduced.
The Liberty Bell Youth Climate Action Group and the Methow Valley Citizens Council (MVCC) again teamed up, as they did last year, for a youth climate action day at the Capitol. Attending this year were junior Lena Nelson, and sophomores Amelia Bondi, Wyatt Lodato Albright, Masie Shaw and Stella Gitchos.
The students were well-prepared and knowledgeable for their testimony, and had identified specific legislation they want to see advanced. The bills range from a program that would help Washington build community solar power systems, to a grant program that would help fund sustainable agriculture and forestry projects in rural areas, to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Although it’s daunting to actually present yourself to a legislative committee, and some people at the Capitol seemed surprised to see them there, the Liberty Bell students were all grateful for and a bit in awe of the experience. Here are some of their thoughts:
• “Visiting the capital, speaking with representatives, and giving testimony in front of a committee was honestly terrifying, but it is so amazing to have your voice heard and to look your representatives in the eye and tell them to fight for your future.”
— Stella Gitchos
• “I think it’s incredible that 15- and 16-year-olds from such a small town have the opportunity to go to the capital and lobby on the climate change crisis, that we are all so passionate about.”
– Wyatt Lodato Albright
• “My experience talking to our representatives in Olympia was unforgettable. “It made me realize that young people can truly make a difference.”
– Masie Shaw
• “Having youth involved in the climate change movement is absolutely crucial because it is our futures that will be influenced, our lives that will continue to drastically change.”
– Lena Nelson
We should be proud of these Methow Valley exemplars, who are way ahead of many of their elders in thinking about and reacting to the challenges of global climate change. And the biggest barrier remains ignorance, starting with the Ignorer In Chief who thinks the kids should just “chill.” I’ve lately concluded that the media and everyone else should stop using the term “climate change denier.” In the face of overwhelming and irrefutable evidence, there is nothing that can be denied. From now on, they should be called “climate change ignorers,” which is more accurate, and relegates them to their appropriately marginal role in the discussion. We’re dangerously beyond wasting time in argument over whether something needs to be done. The only option is action.
A few teenagers taking a few days to make their views known to lawmakers may seem like a small gesture in the overall scheme of things. But a growing groundswell of similar efforts in this country and around the world could have the cumulative impact necessary to get the wheels of change moving. The young people are not going away, and they are not going to lower their voices, and they are going to be voting in vast numbers. They should be heard, appreciated for speaking out, and taken seriously.