Last year, a 15-year-old student started skipping school to petition outside the Swedish Parliament against global climate change. Who knew that the impact of that act would reach around the world and into the halls of Champlain Valley Union High School this year?
But that is exactly what happened.
On Friday, Sept. 20, 40 CVU students joined a crowd of more than 2,000, many of whom were students from area schools, on Church Street in Burlington for the Global Climate Strike, Vermont-style.
Swedish student Greta Thunberg, now 16, sailed to New York City for the U.N. Climate Action Summit. The Global Climate Strike on Sept. 20 was a call to action from Thunberg. Students and adults responded by holding climate action events in 160 countries in conjunction with the Climate Strike, said Katie Antos-Ketcham, CVU teacher and adviser to EnACT, the school’s Environmental Action Club.
“The Global Climate Change was a coordinated action from youth to demand action on climate change that reflects science,” she said.
Another of the EnACT leadership team who went to the Global Climate Strike in Burlington is Hazel Civalier, a junior from Shelburne.
“Since kindergarten, as a child I really loved spending time outdoors. I’ve always preferred playing outdoors more than indoors and been concerned about how climate change can destroy all that,” said Civalier.
The day started at CVU with a teach-in during the first of the two 90-minute blocks which coordinated by EnACT students and taught by teachers.
The first block was about taking action and learning more about climate science. The second block was a workshop on social justice and an “art build,” Antos-Ketcham said.
She said that social justice was part of the teach-in because they felt like the people who are most directly impacted by the climate crisis are the world’s most marginalized people.
“Perhaps they live in the global south, perhaps they live in poverty,” she said. “Many of the people who are being directly impacted now are people of color.”
Much of the art build featured students making posters on climate change for other schools in the district. About 100 students were involved in the teach-in.
Before the students who went to the strike in Burlington left CVU, they presented a demand to Principal Adam Bunting:
“Will you ensure a dramatic increase in our climate curriculum at CVU starting as soon as next school year? To make sure it is relevant for our future, will you hold monthly, open climate curriculum and course planning meetings with students and faculty?”
Sophie Dauerman, a senior from Shelburne, is part of the leadership team of EnACT and traveled to Burlington for the strike. She said that knowing that there were so many people involved made her feel a mix of hope and fear for the future of the environment.
She read her poem “Teach Me Climate” to the crowd from the steps of Burlington City Hall:
“Prepare me for catastrophic floods and political instability. Prepare me for the future that’s forced upon me.”