Some MU and Columbia Public Schools students skipped classes Friday to make a statement on climate change. The students braved cold winds to demand climate action, holding signs with phrases such as “Climate Action Now!” and “Compost the System.”
About 50 people gathered at Speakers Circle at noon Friday, the same day over 150,000 students in more than 100 countries around the world demonstrated for climate action, according to the Associated Press.
“We are running out of time,” said Jordan Reeves, 13. Jordan, a seventh-grader at West Middle School, spoke at the demonstration on behalf of Youth Climate Strike for Missouri.
The strike in Columbia was one of thousands of national and worldwide demonstrations that began with a call to action by 16-year-old Swedish student Greta Thunberg, who started school strikes for climate. She was nominated this week for a Nobel Peace Prize, according to the Associated Press.
The Mizzou Energy Action Coalition organized the strike in Columbia, inspired by national group U.S. Youth Climate Strike. The crowd in Columbia included students from the Mizzou College Democrats, Rock Bridge High School’s Young Democrats and students from around the city.
MU students with the coalition, Mitch Feyerherm, Haley Gronniger and Rory Butler, arrived at Speakers Circle around 8:50 a.m. for the strikes held every hour throughout the morning.
The climate solution supported by the coalition involves urging the government, businesses and citizens to switch to a 100 percent clean energy grid, according to their news release.
As the strikes began picking up steam, protestors marched around campus, through the MU Student Center and across Lowry Mall, chanting slogans to the beat of a snare drum.
“Hey! Hey! Ho! Ho! Coal and Oil have got to go!” the demonstrators chanted, as well as “Wall Street! Wall Street! Hey you! We deserve a future, too!”
Butler, who missed calculus class to attend the demonstration, said this is one of the first protests he has felt passionate about.
“Honestly, there’s not a lot of people, but I don’t really care,” said Butler, before the mid-morning crowd began to gather. “I feel really strong and set in what I’m doing. It feels kind of amazing.”
In a speech at the demonstration, Barb Kuensting, a member of the coalition, presented eleven different reasons to fix the climate crisis, including extreme storms and fires, temperature increases and rising sea levels, which she said are a result of corporate greed and capitalism.
“At this rate we will not have a future for us or our children,” Kuensting said. “Change should start with the university level and the high school level, with the students.”
Dalton Archer, a member of the American Conservation Coalition at MU, agreed that raising awareness is important but said he believes people should focus more on the solutions to climate change rather than citing social justice issues, such as capitalism, as main contributors.
Jorge Soto, the vice president of Mizzou College Democrats, and Kellen Clowe, from Rock Bridge High School’s Young Democrats, spoke in their speeches about promoting legislative changes and making their voices heard.
“What can we as college students do?” Soto said. “We can make our voices heard.”
Soto encouraged students to join groups dedicated to climate change, urge legislators to support climate change and have conversations with family and friends.
Clowe said he wants to send a message to Missouri legislators to take action on climate change, a statement applauded by the audience.
“Even though I am young, I will be able to vote in the next election,” he said. “I want Hartzler, Blunt and Hawley to know that I will not vote for someone who has no intentions on taking action on climate change.”
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