Mattie Hartman knew her school needed to be a part of an international movement.
On Friday, Lewis and Clark High School students gathered in their school’s courtyard to join their peers in cities across the world like Montreal, Chicago, Berlin and Seattle to address climate change in a way that would encourage government officials at all levels to focus on the issue in more meaningful ways.
The student-led Youth Climate Protest aimed to raise awareness about the Green New Deal, a resolution proposed by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., that would increase reliance on renewable energy and place an emphasis on reducing greenhouse emissions.
Coming a day after a similar protest at Mead High School, Hartman, a junior at LC, wanted to do her part for her school and community. Hartman said her family has a history of activism on both local and national issues. She said her grandmother is who informed her of this week’s environmental protests.
“I want to get people aware of what’s happening in the world,” said Hartman. “A lot of people don’t know about the Green New Deal and I want to go over what it means.”
But for some who already knows about the Green New Deal, the program doesn’t seem to be the adequate solution for all of the country’s issues.
“The fact that they’re trying to push the Green New Deal and not really compromise on it is a little disappointing,” said LC Conservative Club President Isaac Engle.
“I would be fine with something where we could compromise on the environment in general,” said Engle, “but if they’re going to try to make it an all-or-nothing, then nothing’s going to happen.”
Friday’s worldwide movement has ties to Swedish 16-year-old Greta Thunberg, who confronted climate change negotiators on the world stage at the United Nations climate summit in Poland last December.
Inspired by the “March for Our Lives” walkouts that drew nearly a million students ranging from kindergartners to high school seniors in 2018, including several high schools across Eastern Washington, Thunberg turned to the same strategy for climate change.
It became a global phenomenon Friday, as hundreds of thousands of students worldwide – many skipping school – demanded urgent action on climate change. Lewis and Clark students did not skip classes, but instead gathered immediately after the last bell of the day.
The protests started in the South Pacific and moved west with the sun, stretching to every continent, across more than 100 countries and 1,700 locations, from India to South Africa to Greenland to the United States.
Now, almost exactly a year after the international series of walkouts, climate protest organizers believe that more than 1 million students participated in the worldwide event supporting what LC student Ali Groza called “The fight of our generation.”
But for such a highly polarizing topic, the LC demonstration was less “fight” and much more about considerate conversation. That also was the case across the globe as protesters delivered their dire messages in a largely peaceful way, but also with exasperation and a sense of urgency.
In Spokane, both sides talked about several issues related to climate, never raising voices or getting mean to each other. It was that positive engagement and constructive dialogue that mattered most to LC principal Marybeth Smith.
“I really appreciate when our students come together and say ‘We want to be active and part of something.’ Being a part of something bigger than yourself is really positive.”
Spokesman-Review wire services contributed to this report.
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