Lauren R. Stevens: Young 'people get it' about climate change threat


WILLIAMSTOWN — The print date for this column, April 1, presents a temptation that only the gallant young people calling for the mitigation of climate change could overcome. So — no April Fools from me today; rather an encomium occasioned by the image, captured by Elodie Reed's photograph (Eagle, March 16) of a march of young people extending along the sidewalk between two crests of Main Street, Williamstown, from in front of Thompson Chapel to the Williams College president's house.

For March 15, no longer the foreboding Ides of March but the promising day of the Youth Climate Strike, organizers at Mount Greylock Regional arranged for high school students to get off their buses at the town's elementary school, where the younger students, along with some Williams College students and a smattering of adults, joined them. Credit the students — and the schools' administrations for cooperating.

Swedish 16-year-old Greta Thunberg, who had been picketing at the Swedish parliament every Friday since her school started last August, called for an international strike. Before it was over 1.5 million students in over 100 countries responded (Strike4Climate), some by staying out of school. The Williamstown event was after school, as a way of being more open.

Three Norwegian MPs have nominated Thunberg, who describes herself as having Asperger's Syndrome, for the Nobel Peace Prize. She addressed the United Nations climate talks in Poland (COP24) in December and the World Economic Forum in Davos in January, essentially telling the former they weren't doing enough and the latter they were too bent on making money.

The Mount Greylock students, many members of the school's YES (Youth Environmental Squad) and REV (Register, Educate, Vote) clubs, support the Sunrise Movement, a national group of young people who put forward the Green New Deal. Originally an economic development proposal to put youth to work greening America's energy infrastructure, the New Deal has become a coat rack for social welfare programs that distract from its goal. The GND is still only a resolution; perhaps it can shed some articles when it becomes a bill.

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Some 32,000 young people, plus 15 amicus briefs from government and nongovernmental agencies, have signed on to support the 21 young plaintiffs in Juliana v. The United States, a Children's Trust suit, stalled by the Trump administration in federal courts, that says the government has the obligation to take action against climate change for the sake of the younger people who will live into its horrors.

The Williamstown students marched to Field Park, the rotary at the junction of Routes 2 and 7. There several students spoke and many held up signs favoring taking action against climate change. Most drivers of passing cars and trucks honked in support.

One pickup truck, however, clearly having muffler problems, passed by and then went all the way around the rotary to pass the students for the second noisy time. Perhaps the driver wanted another view of the attractive, young protestors; perhaps he wished to drown out the message. Either way, he missed the point: that people about his age were trying to save the world. And you?

At least, that's how it looks from the White Oaks.

A writer and environmentalist, Lauren R. Stevens is a regular Eagle contributor.


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