Cutting Class for Climate Change
By Kaia Scholtz
If you were near the shops in north St. Anthony Park midday on March 15, chances are you noticed something very different happening: Seventy-five Murray Middle School students — led by seventh-grader Siri Pattison — played hooky (with parent permission) to pursue a social cause.
Buzzing with excitement, the students waited to ride city buses to join 1,000 other Minnesota middle- and high-schoolers at the state Capitol to participate in a rally demanding that governments start seriously fighting climate change. They were among tens of thousands of students in more than 100 countries doing the same thing that day.
Kids around the world were inspired by one person: Greta Thunberg. Thunberg, a teenager in Stockholm, Sweden (who has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize), started a movement that spread across the world like wild fire. It has focused on getting young people to speak out against governments being too slow in responding to global warming.
Siri learned about Thunberg on social media and wanted to join the cause. It wasn’t easy to spread the word and figure out how students could get permission to leave school for an event that wasn’t school-sponsored. But Siri and other students worked with the administrators at Murray Middle to make everything go smoothly.
“My parents and grandparents helped me think it through too,” Siri said. But a big part of this movement is about kids leading the way and sharing their voices to let their fears and hopes be heard.
The chanting from the students carried through the streets that surrounded the Capitol. The vibe from all the students was mostly positive and supportive of reversing the effects of climate change, but the tone was still serious. Many students expressed frustration at not having a stronger voice in the matter and feeling helpless. As is often the case, fear can be the driver of change. “We can’t make the laws… so we need our voices heard to influence the lawmakers and others,” Siri said.
“I’m trying to find more ways that I can take action and hopefully encourage others to do the same,” Siri continued. “I hope it affects the public perception of climate change and how big of an issue it is … and I’m striving to bring more attention to it.”
The worldwide rally is just the start of what students need to do to keep the climate change issue out front, Siri said. One way students can keep growing this movement is to volunteer and join organizations such as Minnesota Can’t Wait, Minneapolis Climate Action, and Minnesota 350. These organizations and others encourage people to take action, organize protests, and educate citizens on the effects of climate change and what they can do about it.
Taking care of the environment also helps us take care ourselves. Turn off lights. Walk. Bike. Take public transit. Car share/carpool. Use energy-efficient light bulbs. Winterize your home. Eat less meat. Buy less stuff. Fix things. Invest in solar and wind energy. Write your legislators.
Big and little things really matter — now and for the future. And youth activists are leading the way.
Kaia Scholtz is an eighth-grade student at Murray Middle School.