Alexander Allport, 8, wasn’t sure Friday afternoon whether he’d rather be in home school or in front of City Hall. It was nice out – partly cloudy and around 70 degrees Fahrenheit – and the day marked one of global significance.
About 100 local residents and students gathered in the morning in front of City Hall as part of the #FridaysForFuture movement championed by Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old climate activist from Sweden who spoke with a group of young people before the United States Congress earlier this week. #FridaysForFuture is a movement encouraging young people to walk out of school to protest for climate action.
Allport said that although it’s fun to be outside with people playing music, holding signs and shouting with the car horns of passersby, he learns more about pollution and the effects of climate change in school than he does on the street.
The 8-year-old talked about how pollution and fossil fuels affect the Earth’s environment. A warming planet means “killing the reefs and melting the ice,” Allport said. Henry, his six-year-old brother, added “then there will be no more polar bears or penguins.”
Thunberg skipped school in August 2018 for three weeks and sat in front of the Swedish parliament every day to protest the lack of political action to address a changing climate. “On the 8th of September, Greta decided to continue striking every Friday until the Swedish policies provided a safe pathway well under 2-degree (Celsius),” according to a website about the #FridaysForFuture movement.
The #FridaysForFuture activists in Durango joined millions of people in thousands of towns in hundreds of countries striking for political action to address a changing climate.
Avery Massengale, 20, said she drove from Pagosa because “there’s no strike in my town.” The Ashworth College student said she may have wasted carbon dioxide on her hour-long drive to Durango but it was worth it for an opportunity to spread awareness about the need for urgent action to address climate change.
There are policies and regulations that might limit pollution from corporations, but “people are stuck in their ways,” she said in front of City Hall.
“We’re all recovering hypocrites,” Massengale said. “We all have to sacrifice.”
Students and faculty at Mountain Middle School recognized the call to action and used the global movement as an opportunity to teach and act. Anna Layden said she and fellow staff worked with a core group of students to present Thunberg’s TED talk at an assembly earlier this week.
“We felt like not educating students about the background and going with signs to City Hall was not effective way to learn,” Layden said.
Instead, faculty organized with students to collect trash in Animas City. Hundreds of students combed the streets for garbage for an hour and a half. “Seeing how much trash there actually is, it’s pretty eye opening,” Layden said.
Balin Kirk, a student at Mountain Middle, said he recognizes the power of protest. But the utility of protesting comes through political action – and he said politicians aren’t doing enough. “Little things will make it better,” he said.
“I hope people think and change their actions; instead of littering just put it in your pocket,” Kirk said. “These are problems and if we don’t do something then it’ll be a bigger problem.”
Col Hinds, another Mountain Middle student who’s passionate about climate action, said he and his family went to the protest in the morning before joining his classmates in cleaning the city. He saw other students from Durango High and Miller Middle schools and it’s “good to show the grown-ups that we will skip school (to protest for climate action),” Hinds said.
But everyone has a role to play – and Mountain Middle School students won’t walk the streets everyday to clean trash, he said.
“I hope people understand the need to throw in some effort,” Hinds said.