Hundreds Strike for National Climate Action at Town Park

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Hundreds Strike for National Climate Action at Town Park

By BENJAMIN GLASS

MIDDLEBURY – Hundreds gathered at College Park in downtown Middlebury last Friday, March 15, to strike against government inaction on climate change. Middlebury Union High School students and college students alike walked out of class at noon, flocking to the Town Green. They were met by members of Addison County’s Interfaith Climate Action Network and other local climate activists including Bill McKibben, the Schumann Distinguished Scholar in Environmental Studies at Middlebury College and founder of 350.org.

Strike organizers Cora Kircher ’20, Connor Wertz ’22 and Katie Concannon ’22 planned the event in solidarity with the hundreds of other Youth Climate Strikes happening across the globe that day.

In the midst of busy mid-day traffic, event organizers spoke through a blaring microphone while strikers held cardboard signs with phrases like, “Keep fossil fuels in the ground,” “Oceans are rising, so are we” and “Stop burning our future.” Many in attendance wore green and intermittently cheered throughout the event.

“I see a shift in how people are talking about [climate change],” said Warren Galloway ’21, who walked out of class that morning. “There’s more pressure against governments and bureaucracy, and holding people accountable, rather than just starting grassroot movements. I think people are starting to panic.”

Benjy Renton
Marchers wave signs at the Climate Strike.

Speakers included organizers Connor Wertz and Cora Kircher, Asa Skinder ’22.5 and Middlebury Union Alumna Greta Hardy-Mittell.

Wertz was the first to speak, citing the U.S. Youth Climate Strike Organization and pleading support for the Green New Deal, an immediate halt to fossil fuel infrastructure, and mandatory inclusion of climate change in U.S. education systems.

“This is more of a prayer than anything else,” said Wertz, urging local leaders and government officials to listen and act on the cries from America’s youth. “We are asking for your actions. We are asking for your vote, your body, your tongue, your arms and wrists and your will. That’s what we need to make the change that needs to happen.”

Cora Kircher spoke next, framing climate change as a present threat.

Benjy Renton
Community members hold a sign calling for action.

“This can’t be a future-centered movement alone because [climate change] is happening right now,” she said. Kircher hosted a minute of silence for people currently experiencing the effects of climate change, as well as for the Abenaki people, “whose land we are occupying.”

Asa Skinder ’22.5 spoke third, informing protesters about the State Government’s hesitance to confirm the ESSEX Plan, a state initiative to produce low-cost clean energy to Vermonters. In a state that spends 8% of its GDP on fossil fuels, Skinder believes Vermont isn’t doing nearly enough to limit its use of these resources.

Benjy Renton
Connor Wertz ’22 speaks in front of students gathered at college park.

“In Vermont, we often feel like we are in an environmentally responsible place, but if you look at the actions of our leaders in the House and Senate, that’s not true,” Skinder said. “They may not be climate change deniers, but they are climate delayers.”

Middlebury Union High School Alumna Greta Hardy-Mittell broke up the largely political discourse by reading an anecdote of her time in the Amazon Rainforest in December of last year.

“The suffocating fear of climate change followed me even to the most remote and pristine location on earth,” she said. “I could only think about how it is all going to fade away.”

Kircher capped the event by fiercely arguing that climate change is a complex issue, comprised of matters of social prejudice and conservative economic policy.

“In order to fight the climate crisis, we have to pursue a radical politics that recognizes that climate change isn’t separate from white supremacy, capitalism and an extractive economy and culture based on commodity accumulation and the exploitation of natural resources and other human beings,” she said.

Benjy Renton
Cora Kircher ’20, one of the organizers of the Climate Strike.

The crowd dispersed around 12:30 p.m. after a last applause for all four speakers. Many felt satisfied with the event.

“There was a great turn out,” said Cat La Roche ’21. “I really didn’t expect this many people.”

To learn more about The Youth Climate Strike Organization, visit youthclimatestrikeus.org.

 

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