JACKSON, Wyo. — New York City; London, England; Malawi, Africa; Bucharest, Romania; Wakiso District, Uganda; Hamburg, Germany; Pakistan; Dhaka, Bangladesh; Jackson Hole, Wyoming.
Early estimates guess at least 3 million demonstrators from more than 150 countries participated in the first-ever Global Climate Strike. Teton County residents contributed a number that was somewhere over 50 but Buckrail kept losing count. They braved the rain and 40-degree temps to send a message about climate change: the time to act is now.
“If we don’t take action now, it’s going to be too late,” said Tisa Djahangiri.
Djahangiri said she feels optimistic — today, at least — about the momentum built around the climate movement. Because it’s going to take everyone to make a difference. “If we all get on board, we can turn this thing around,” she said.
The Washington Post reported that Friday’s actions are among the largest youth-led demonstration in history, planned just in time for world leaders to meet at the United Nations for a climate summit Monday. The charge is being led largely by 16-year-old Greta Thunberg from Sweden, who recently traveled to the U.S. by sailboat — a zero-emissions journey — to testify in front of U.S. legislators and participate in the global strike. She’s been on a “school strike” for 57 weeks. Today, she asked students around the world to join her.
Jackson’s crowd was varied in age, but it seems most local students stayed in school. Still, a handful busted out — with their parents’ permission — and brought their signs and enthusiasm to the square. High school senior Maleah Tuttle led the group in chants of “What do we want? (Change!) When do we want it? (Now),” and encouraged participants to take their energy to people with power. “Call, vote, do whatever it takes” Tuttle shouted to the crowd. “Our voice means nothing if there’s no action behind it.”
Eighth-grader Ben Aepli had parental permission to demonstrate. “Climate change is the biggest issue we face,” the 13-year-old said. “I’m worried about the future.”
And not just any future, but his future. Aepli and another group of 12-year-olds all lamented that their generation will suffer the most from the effects of climate change.
Aepli also altruistically observed that it won’t be kids like him who bear the brunt of a changing climate. “It’s going to affect the poor the most,” he said. His concerns are backed by the United Nations, who published an essay examining the relationship between climate change and inequality in 2017.
Josephine Gwilliam didn’t need parental permission to skip school — she’s legally an adult — but she still played hooky. “I skipped college to come here,” she said.
Gwilliam’s presence was a personal message to her family, she said, but also to the public: climate change should not be political.
“I come from a very Republican family,” Gwilliam said. “People believe that republicans can’t believe in climate change.” But her family is proof to the contrary. She gestured to her younger sister Anna. “This little one deserves to grow up the same way we did.”Plus, Gwilliam said, the more damage climate change does to the planet, the more the government is going to one day need to regulate, and isn’t that the most anti-conservative thing there is?
“Conservatives should be out here,” she said.
Jackson’s demonstration took a brief but dramatic turn when a group took their protest off of the Town Square and into the streets. For a few minutes, they stood in the crosswalk on Broadway and Cache and blocked traffic, holding signs high for the now-stalled cars to see.
“We’re not gonna get anything done standing there!” one street-bound demonstrator shouted.
Jessica Sell Chambers took the fall after a Sheriff’s deputy asked her to get out of the way and she refused. Master Deputy Kurt Drumheller asked for her I.D. reminded her of the law: Chambers has a right to protest, he said, but “you don’t get to block traffic.”
“Are you trying to send a message to kids that they should do something illegal?”
Yes, actually, Chambers retorted. If that’s what it takes. That’s the point. “We try time and time again [to make a change] and people don’t care.”
Drumheller didn’t follow through on his threat to arrest Chambers – it was a healthy interaction, Chambers reflected — and instead let her off with a warning.
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