This deadline, both far away and alarmingly near, has appeared in numerous news headlines this past year. 11 years, however, has now become 18 months. Determined to combat the global warming crisis, students of Longmeadow High School have begun to take action.
Sophomores Ella Barton and Dylan Ratner founded Climate Change Club to raise awareness and to keep the student body informed about what they can do to positively impact our environment. In addition to raising awareness, Ella’s goal is to help people “truly see that we must act now in order to prevent permanent damage on our planet”. Climate Change Club meets every other Thursday after school and always welcomes new members.
Longmeadow students are also active members of the Sunrise Movement, a youth-led national organization that fights for political action on climate change. Senior Sarah Reyes became involved with Sunrise this summer and started a Springfield hub with a friend in September. Since then, more and more Longmeadow students have joined. On Friday, December 6, student leaders of Sunrise organized a climate strike in Springfield, MA. Planning for the strike started in October and questions such as “figuring out what our specific goals were for this action, where it would be…what the action would be (i.e. just a rally, or a sit in, or a march, etc), what organizations we would partner with, how to get press there, and how to get the community to turn out” were considered says Sarah Reyes. Climate Change Club members were encouraged to attend, and many took the chance that they “never (had) before” and agreed that “it was cool to go to (a strike) so close and for a real, large issue in society today” says sophomore Ben Buckovich. In the end, around 250 people attended the strike with as many as 20 students from Longmeadow High.
During the strike, participants braved the snow and freezing temperatures and marched from Springfield City Hall to Representative Richard Neal’s office, chanting phrases like “Hear our voices, Richard Neal, we demand you sign the Green New Deal” and singing songs such as We Shall Overcome. Upon arriving at Rep. Neal’s office, Sunrisers delivered demands asking him to sign a pledge to support the Green New Deal, to refuse to accept fossil fuel money in the future, and to support the Green New Deal for Public Housing Act. The climate strike warned Rep. Neal that “his lip service is not satisfactory and we will keep demanding his action until he signs the pledges” says Junior Thomas Coulouras. Richard Neal has not yet responded to the strike.
Students who do not have time to join clubs or organizations can also help the battle against climate change on their own. “Recycling, minimizing your waste, packaging and…reducing the amount of meat or animal products you consume drastically reduces your carbon footprint,” says Ella Barton, “and that is the goal”. Furthermore, those who wish to become more involved in the fight can attend post-strike meetings (email firstname.lastname@example.org for more updates). Most importantly, says Dylan Ratner, students should “educate [themselves and] be knowledgeable about what is going on in our environment today.”
A common source of inspiration for students in the movement against climate change is Greta Thunberg, a 16 year old activist from Sweden. She proves that “you can make a difference no matter your age and you shouldn’t wait to act just because you feel too young or powerless,” says Ella Barton. Thomas Coulouras says he is “personally inspired by all of the climate activists who have been making change for years despite not (making) news headlines”. Reflecting on the strike, Sarah Reyes said that she was inspired “to see so many students out there.”
In the near future, Longmeadow students hope to increase awareness, grow the Hampden County Hub of Sunrise, and organize a larger climate strike in April on Earth Day. Young leaders have recognized the urgency of the situation, for hurricanes, rising temperatures, wildfires, and other natural disasters are becoming more and more catastrophic. Thomas Coulouras says “our federal government is not going to act on this crisis alone…it [is] up to us, the young people, to…make the changes that our politicians will not”. “If this generation doesn’t stop the climate crisis,” states Sarah Reyes, “Earth will not be inhabitable for humans in the near future.”