Students to walk out for climate change action on Friday

AMHERST — Last year, Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg started skipping class every Friday to protest her country’s lack of action on climate change outside its parliament. 

The movement, “#FridaysForFuture” inspired other students and spread. This Friday, young people around the world — including those in western Massachusetts — will be cutting school to urge the world to address climate change as part of a global day of action.

Nearly 1,700 events in more than 100 countries are planned for Friday, according to the Fridays for Future website. In Amherst, high school students will be walking out of class and in Boston, youth will be rallying at the Statehouse. 

Amherst Regional High School students are hosting one of several protests happening in the state on Friday. Students will leave school after their lunch period ends at 12:30, and walk to the town common where young people and community groups will give speeches about climate change.

State Rep. Mindy Domb, D-Amherst, and state Sen. Joanne Comerford, D-Northampton, are expected to attend, the organizers said.

“We are going to be the generation that’s affected the most by climate change,” said organizer Xiaoping Yu, a junior at ARHS. “Also our generation does not have as much power as the rest of the people. Most of us can’t even vote yet. We just want to send a message to our government — local and national and international government — to tell them we’re upset by this.”

Organizers said they support policies such as the Green New Deal and, more locally, want to lower their school’s carbon footprint.

In Boston, youth will be rallying at the Statehouse, lobbying legislators to sign on to the Green New Deal and holding a town hall with several lawmakers, said lead Massachusetts organizer and Northampton High School sophomore Saraphina Forman. Their platform includes calling for major greenhouse gas emission reductions and world leaders to make sure warming stays under 1.5 degrees Celsius.  

Stephanie Kuplast, 17, of Southampton, is also organizing the Statehouse rally. 

“We decided to do a strike because it upset the natural order of day to day life,” Kuplast said. “We wanted to make it something people can’t ignore, that our schools can’t ignore, that people walking down the street can’t ignore.”

Kuplast pointed to the recent United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report released in October, which concluded that as soon as 2030, temperatures are likely to reach 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels if the status quo is maintained.

“There are no second chances,” Forman said. “I can’t just live my normal life business, as usual, knowing we’re not taking action to protect my future.”

Greta Jochem can be reached at gjochem@gazettenet.com

Author: Going Green

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