‘Homework can wait’ — Vail Valley students join global climate strike
Wave of global protests include student-led strikes at local high schools and around Avon
EAGLE COUNTY — Armed with cardboard signs — and their voices — students around the valley walked out of school Friday to join hundreds of thousands of their peers worldwide to demand action on global climate change.
“Rather than sulking in these horrifying problems, we’re here today to not only address these problems but demand change,” Battle Mountain High School senior Ashley Ducharme told a crowd of about 300 students and faculty in a protest just before noon outside the school in Edwards. “We will not be ignored. This world is just as much ours as it is to any other person on this planet, and when something you love is being destroyed, you have to speak up. And you have — because you’re here today. Our voices will not go unheard, because these issues impact us and future generations to come.”
A similar event took place at Eagle Valley High School while a group of about 40 Vail Mountain School students and faculty jumped on buses and headed to Avon to protest through town.
The local Burton and Patagonia stores in Vail Village, Lionshead and Beaver Creek also closed Friday in solidarity with the global protests, and Burton’s website went dark with a message reading “Closed for business, open for action.”
Hayley Bill, 16, an upper school student at VMS, said she helped organize Friday’s protest in a flurry over two days, getting approval from faculty, organizing transportation and making a slew of signs.
Among the statements drawn onto cardboard by VMS students: “ACT NOW OR SWIM LATER,” “THERE IS NO PLANET B,” “Be a part of the SOLUTION not the POLLUTION” and “SEA LEVELS are RISING SO ARE WE.”
“We marched around the streets of Avon protesting and trying to show people that we care and we want change for our future,” Bill said. “The group that we brought today is optimistic. … I think since this is a global event, that’s what makes it so amazing, is that so many people can come together, work together, even though we don’t know each other, for one common goal.”
Carey Salvin, 15, who takes AP environmental science with Bill at VMS, said global climate change is something she and her peers talk about every single day at school.
“No matter what we’re talking about, it has something to do with what our earth is going through right now,” she said. “The students here, we do notice, and we pay attention to recent scientific studies and we hear about what our politicians are doing to try to pass legislation.”
She added that when she and her peers get to voting age, global climate change “will be the main issue that we’re thinking about.”
At Battle Mountain, the crowd cheered on speeches from six different seniors — Ducharme, Sarah Jacobs, T.J. Guercio, Estania Godoy and Troy Rindone — while holding up signs and later drawing protest slogans in chalk on the sidewalks in front of the school.
State Rep. Dylan Roberts, who lives up the road in Avon, stopped by to listen to the speeches and talk to students.
“I am incredibly inspired by these kids,” Roberts said. “I hear that they understand how grave this problem is and how we need leadership at all levels of government on this issue because our future, their future is at stake. In this valley, if we don’t have the snow falling, we don’t have an economy. We don’t have a world to grow up in. I hear from them that we need to act and we need to listen to them and lead in the right way.”
Jacobs, who helped organize the protests at Battle Mountain, said she’s active with the school’s environmental club, which promotes sustainability with recycling, the school garden and other initiatives, including outfitting the school with solar panels. She hopes to major in environmental biology in college to help find solutions to global climate change, and she can’t wait to vote next year.
“This is not only a Vail problem, a Colorado problem, and a United States problem, it’s a world problem,” she told the crowd. “We are out here today to support Greta’s message that this matters now and our homework can wait.”
Greta is Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old Swedish climate activist who helped galvanize the global protests by staging her weekly Fridays for Future demonstrations for a year, urging world leaders to increase efforts to combat climate change. The wave of protests around the globe precedes Monday’s United Nations summit, where world leaders will focus on climate change.
Rindone, who is running for student body president, gave an impassioned speech to close out Battle Mountain’s protest. He urged his peers not to resign themselves to hopelessness and to keep protesting to “guarantee the rights to our own futures.”
“We must remember that America is a country built on challenging the establishment and that particularly for youth, our biggest superpower is our voice,” he said. “We are at an age where most of us cannot vote or influence the legislation that our representatives support. All we have is our voice. And on this particular day, we are choosing to use our voices to beg those who do have power to use it. To our parents, teachers, mentors and representatives, vote for us. Vote for our future, which we currently don’t have the means to influence.”