Students challenge community during Climate Strike
Hope Henning, a North Central High School student and a coordinator for Climate Strike Spokane on Sept. 20, challenged adults for inaction.
“Who of you has been dismissed because of your age?” she asked. “Adults in my school said climate change is controversial, did not announce the Climate Strike and said it wasn’t relevant to the school.”
Hope said students should be able to discuss controversial topics, analyze issues and have bipartisan, polite debates missing in today’s world. She said churches should also be places people can meet to disagree with respect.
“Adults call discussing climate change controversial or dangerous,” Hope said. “How can we be adults if we do not embrace controversial issues, or if controversy and politics are redacted from classrooms? What can we do? We can protest to solve global issues like the climate crisis.
“What can I do?” she asked, noting a sense of hopelessness about what one teen in Spokane can do. “Can I do anything?”
Hope answered with examples: Ruby Bridges was one kid. Malala Yousafzai is one kid. 21 teens have taken the U.S. government to court to stop burning fossil fuel. Greta Thunberg of Sweden is one kid.”
Greta was alone last year doing a climate strike from her school. This year millions around the world joined in the Climate Strike.
“We need the drama teens are known for. Elected officials are not doing their jobs. We need to express our dissent that the U.S. President who calls global warming a hoax China created to harm U.S. competitiveness,” she said, listing inaction by other politicians.
Later in the program, Governor Jay Inslee named her Washingtonian of the Day.
Christopher Armitage, who is running for Congress, has been told he’s too young to run for office. He is running because he sees that “the future is sold to the highest bidder by people who will not face the consequences. We need courage to act every day.
“We are told we can’t have the crazy New Green Deal, but we are losing our future. Act and get involved,” he said.
Governor Jay Inslee, the only non-youth speaking at the Spokane Climate Strike rally at the Gathering Place beside the Spokane City Hall, opened saying he identifies with Spokane County youth who are asking for climate action, “I’m a climate action kid,. It’s the right message. It’s a moral message from around the world. Young are right about science.
“There’s a lot happening in Spokane County,” he said, mentioning Katerra opening a plant to produce cross-laminated timber; Itron enabling utilities to better manage energy and water; and Avista implementing smart grid technologies.
“You have the power to make change in the national, international debate,” he told about 1,000 youth and adults gathered.
“A 12-year-old boy can say to a 60 year-old: ‘You do not have the right to ruin my future’,” Jay said. “You are an inspiration to me. This is the first day of care and fight for the planet. We need your leadership now to save our planet.”
Gabriel Kennedy Gibbons, a junior at Mead High School and vice president of the school’s environmental group, looked at the crowd and said, “Look at this energy. This is the start of something ginormous. I’m thankful that youth are fighting for the future. I’m thankful for adults and parents who care.
“The human race has created a mistake: the climate crisis. The first step in fixing a mistake is to acknowledge we are doing harm,” Gabriel said. “The second step is to make a change by going out of our way to do something differently.”
He offered some tips: 1) Talk with friends about climate change—we need controversy to learn from each other. 2) Become conscientious consumers and think about the impact of your buying on planet earth. Go to betterworldshopper.org and download the app that rates how companies treat their employees and the environment. 3) Become active citizens and vote. 4) Watch for events to attend and keep the ball rolling. If we each do our part, nothing will stop us.”
Will Holland of Fossil Free Gonzaga University said: “The climate crisis scares me. The issue is huge because it stretches across the globe. We are here to fight for something that defines our humanity.
Iaitia Farrell, of the Hunkpapa Lakota Standing Rock Sioux tribe, whose mother is from the Colville Lakes Band, said she was at Standing Rock with warriors and activists. Indian people are on the front lines fighting environmental destruction, genocide and industrial pollution.
“As human beings we need to stand up for the earth, our mother. We have polluted water, desecrated lands, exploited oil and affected indigenous communities around the world. We need to respect the land, water and air,” she said.
“We are connected to one another through the water that runs through our veins regardless of our race or religion,” Iaitia said. “We are connected through our relationships with animals. We need to advocate for the land, water and animals who can’t speak. We should not let the big oil companies and big banks control what happens to the U.S. It is systematic genocide—against the creator of life.
“Women are sacred,” she said. “Indigenous people say to look at what is happening to Mother Earth as the planet is exploited and what is happening to women with sexual abuse. Both the earth and women give life and birth, and are responsible to continue future generations. Women are part of the sacred hoop of life.”
Iaitia urged those at the rally to continue the momentum: “Feel the heart and fire in you to say, ‘No more!’ Carry the fire with you. See what is happening and do something. You have power. You are the 7th generation. You have the power to create peace and love.”
Jeff Ferguson of the Spokane Tribe said the protest of the oil pipeline at Standing Rock had impact on the world.
“It was created by a handful of youth who saw injustice and in nine months organized protests,” he said. “Efforts snowballed, so the City of Seattle divested $1 billion from Wells Fargo. It’s amazing what a handful of kids could do, despite the media blackout and taking down posts on social media. Imagine the impact if media had embraced kids.”
Summer Sandstrom, who attends Running Start at Eastern Washington University, said, “The world is not prepared for the climate crisis. We need to act now, or 100 million more people will be in poverty, water will be scarce, food production will be lost, and diseases like ebola, cholera and TB will spread.”
“We still hope. We thought it was impossible to send a person to the moon, but we did that in 12 years,” she said. “The community turning to fight climate change is the next moon stop. Act so you look back and are proud of that you accomplished.”
Maggie Gates of The Lands Council, an event co-sponsor with 350 Spokane and the Sunrise Movement, listed the five demands of the Climate Strike:
• A Green New Deal to transform the economy to 100 percent renewable energy by 2030, while creating jobs and ending fossil fuel projects.
• Respect indigenous land/sovereignty.
• Invest in the communities affected most by poverty and pollution.
• Protect biodiversity by restoring 50 percent of the world’s lands and oceans, and stopping deforestation by 2030.
• Invest in sustainable, regenerative agriculture and end subsidies for industrial agriculture.
“Act now!” she urged.
Copyright@ The Fig Tree, October, 2019