MONTPELIER — Hundreds of high school students from throughout the region marched on the capital Wednesday to let lawmakers know they want action to stem the tide of what they believe is man-made global warming.
U32 senior Max Sabo, one of the key speakers at the rally, sought to represent the concerns of youth who appear to be paying attention to Democratic Party warnings about a climate apocalypse.
“Now we’re really running out of time,” he told the crowd. “We have everything we need to spread the message, but now it’s a matter of getting the higher powers to listen. As the Youth Lobby this year, we’ve researched wide-ranging policy options that Vermont can be taking. We’ve built coalitions, we’ve held press conferences, we’ve reached across the aisle, we’ve testified in committee. And still, we feel as though we’ve been heard but not listened to.”
Rep. Selene Colburn, P/D-Burlington, was another key speaker. She was the only House member to vote against the budget because she said it didn’t do enough to stop climate change.
Colburn reminded the students that international bodies are urging nations around the world to jump on the green agenda before it’s too late.
“You don’t need me to tell you why it’s so important to have you show up today,” she said. “We have an IPCC [International Panel on Climate Change] report that says we have 12 years to act and the months are ticking by and pretty soon we can start saying we have 11 years to act.”
Promoting the Democrat-backed Green New Deal appeared to be a top agenda item for those who participated.
“The blueprint for a Green New Deal is a radical and imaginative vision,” Colburn said. “This transformation is imperative and perhaps even necessary for human survival, but it is also possible and beautiful. Are you ready for that future?”
Statehouse initiatives she spoke in favor of include further investments in home weatherization, electric vehicles, and a ban on carbon-based fuel infrastructure. “[We must] enact a Global Warming Solutions Act that holds us accountable to the promises we’ve made for carbon emission reductions,” she said.
Peyton Smith, a student at U32, told True North she participated in the rally due to fear of climate disasters.
“We’re here today because we’re worried and out our own futures and what the effects are gonna end up being if nothing happens,” Smith said. “We learn about it in most of our classes; it’s part of our curriculum as well — as if you are more interested in it then there are places that you can go.”
When asked what students like her think of the higher cost of renewable energy, she admitted that she wasn’t clear on those details.
“Of course I don’t really have a grasp on that, being a freshman in high school, but I think that it’s worth it in the end because if we keep mining out all the coal, and say climate change doesn’t happen and there aren’t huge effects, then we are gonna run out at some point and we are going to have to make those movements anyway.”
Jed Kurts is part of the Green Team at U32, and he’s also doing an independent study on implementing renewable energy at the school. He, too, seemed to think the planet has a decade left for human survival.
“It’s really important to me to make a change where I can because we have 10 years. We can never turn back and return to our former planet,” he said.
Libby Brusa, who is on the steering committee of the Youth Climate Lobby, said the size of the rally was itself a message to lawmakers.
“We have Montpelier, Harwood, U32, BHS, CVU, Woodstock — there are kids from all over the state here,” she said. “We’re just asking for a bigger move into acknowledging climate change in Vermont and staying a leader in this fight against climate change.”
State Rep. Brian Cina, P-Burlington, was asked by True North to comment on the higher costs to ratepayers for wind and solar energy.
“Yes, these investments in technology are going to cost money. But what we fail to take account in the current economic system is the cost on our ecosystems,” he said. “And what are we gonna do when we don’t have pollinators, and what are we gonna do when we don’t have a stable climate where we can grow food? And what are we gonna do when we are displaced from our homes because of climate disasters?”
He added that those costs down the road could be much higher than investing in bold climate agendas now.
Rep. Nader Hashim, D-Dummerston, said he was pleased to see Vermont’s school kids acting as activists for the green movement.
“I think the young folks these days are really sharp, and I think what they are really here for is to push the conversation about climate change in general and the pressing issues that surround it,” he said.
The primary organization at the helm was the Youth Lobby. The day’s event was part of the “Rally for the Planet Program.”