High school students across the Twin Cities staged a walkout to demand action on climate change Friday, meeting en masse at the State Capitol to press lawmakers on the issue.
“We need to cause an uproar,” said Maya Sprenger-Otto, an organizer and student at Washburn High School in Minneapolis, addressing a crowd of several hundred teens on the Capitol steps. “We won’t be stopped until substantial change is made.”
Friday’s student “strike” in the Twin Cities was part of a wave of youth-led climate demonstrations across the globe. Similar walkouts, inspired by a protest staged by a Swedish teen, were held in more than 100 cities worldwide, with some marches and rallies attracting tens of thousands of marchers.
In Minnesota, students also gathered in Duluth and Rochester.
Students at the St. Paul rally said their goal is to send a message to lawmakers that they want immediate change to protect their future. Many cited a 2018 United Nations report on climate change calling for “rapid and far-reaching” changes to slow global warming in the coming years. Failure to act, authors cautioned, will result in dire and irreversible consequences for both the environment and the world’s population.
“We need to get involved and show the government that we can’t just stand back while we basically have 11 years left to save the planet and save ourselves,” said Max Sherman, a De La Salle High School senior who took Metro Transit to the rally along with about 80 of his peers.
The hundreds of sign-carrying students gathered at the Capitol brought a long list of policy demands. Teen organizers said a national emergency on climate is long overdue. They called for action on clean water, climate education in schools and passage of the Green New Deal, a sweeping federal resolution focused on renewable energy, health care and jobs. On the state level, the students urged passage of a bill mandating 100 percent renewable energy use by 2050 and an end to the Enbridge Line 3 oil pipeline replacement project.
“If action isn’t taken now, it will be our mess to clean up,” said Farrah Bergstrom, a sophomore at Wayzata High School who has worked on progressive campaigns since age 13. “It’s imperative that leaders and legislators in this Capitol recognize our deep concern for climate change. This isn’t a distant issue, it’s something that’s going to have very severe influence on us in the near future.”
Beyond those immediate goals, student activists said they hope to spark a broader cultural shift on climate change.
“The main goal of the youth is to embody the future, to inspire others to reach for a vision of what this future entails,” said Anna Grace Hottinger, a Shoreview sophomore and state and national student climate organizer. “We are leading the movement and pushing politics. But more importantly, we are leading the movement in changing public will.”
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