On November 20, 2019

Youth protest climate change

Editor’s note: This commentary is by Lili Platt and Evelyn Seidner, Vermont Youth Lobby organizers and students at Harwood Union High School, Montpelier High School and Burr & Burton Academy respectively.

Despite our state’s green reputation, Vermont has not made the necessary action to achieve its climate goals. Since 1990, Vermont’s carbon emissions have risen by 16%, while climate pollution in all of our neighboring states has fallen. Taking in consideration Vermont’s inability to reduce emissions over our lifetimes, and the startling results of the latest United Nations climate change report, the youth believe now is the time to show policymakers in Montpelier that the climate crisis requires immediate legislative action.

That’s why a coalition of Vermont middle school, high school, college and graduate school students united at the State House on Sunday, Nov. 17 for the Vermont Youth Climate Congress— we have decided that enough is enough and it’s time to do what the people in power haven’t—take the climate crisis seriously.

Our goal: draft, refine and ratify a declaration of freedom from fossil fuels and a resolution urging policymakers to protect the future by taking immediate action to address the climate crisis.

As young Vermonters representing the generation that is least responsible for climate change, but who will live longest with the consequences of global warming, the Climate Congress is a way for us to express our frustration with Vermont’s inaction in the face of this emergency, discuss the solutions we think our state must take, and demand that the Vermont state government do everything in its power to protect the future of our state and everything in it.

Given the stakes, it is reasonable and rational to expect that Vermont’s government would understand the importance of moving this state toward carbon neutrality with urgency as well as care and attention to all people. However, this is not happening. People in power are well aware of the science which clearly states that humans are the cause of the climate crisis, they know that if the Earth’s temperature climbs past 1.5 °C there will be irreparable damage, they know that there are only twelve years left to change the future of our world, but even with all of this information they do not treat the climate crisis as it needs to be treated. They feel no urgency when talking about it, there is no sudden push for big change, instead they continue to go about their lives as they had before with climate change being just another issue. But is is not just one issue- it is the biggest issue in the world and it needs to start being treated like it.

However there is still hope, which is why we are fighting so hard for our state government to hear our demands. As young people, we are the ones with the most to gain if Vermont leads the transition to a cleaner, more equitable and prosperous future. We stay hopeful and motivated by our friends and fellow students who, in just the last year, have gone on climate strike by the thousands, marched from Middlebury to Montpelier, urged action through song in State House foyer, testified in committees and risked arrest – all in the name of getting adults to protect our futures.

Young Vermonters have rallied, camped, marched and protested for climate action.

No one is too small to make a difference, and that includes our brave little state of Vermont.

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