By Katy Savage
Madelyn Trimpi’s eyes welled with tears as she stood to the microphone in front of 100 classmates and community members on Friday, March 15 in protest of climate change.
“I’m so proud of everyone who’s here,” she said, holding back tears.
The 16-year-old Woodstock Union High School student from Pomfret was overcome by the support.
“I feel such a burning passion for this,” she said in an interview. “It’s my future. It’s my brother’s future, it’s my friends’ future that we’re looking out for. I really want there to be a future – a healthy, fun future.”
About 75 students walked out of their classrooms around 10 a.m. on Friday with police escorts. They held signs and chanted as they marched down Route 4 to the Woodstock Green, inspired by 16-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, who started the “Fridays for Future” movement by skipping class and demanding climate change action.
There were more than 100,000 youth protests around the world on Friday. Vermont students in Montpelier, Brattleboro, Craftsbury, Burlington, Woodstock and Windsor took part.
As temperatures neared 60 degrees in Woodstock on Friday, students said climate change is happening now.
“Hurricanes are getting stronger,” said, a freshman. “Tornadoes are becoming worse and worse. You can see it’s affecting us now and it will only be worse from here on out.”
Senior student Toby Gorbekowski, held a sign about his future voting rights.
“A lot of us can’t vote yet,” he said. “We can’t be active in a lot of ways, but protesting is one of them.”
Senior Claudia Mills of Barnard was hopeful that her generation would be the one to demand change.
“It’s not our problem, we didn’t ask for it,” said Mills. “But it is our problem. It’s terrifying, but I have so much hope and faith.”
Woodstock students started planning the protest about a month ago.
They asked their parents’ permission and worked with Rep. Zach Ralph, D-Woodstock, to obtain permits.
“I was really excited to hear these kids were interested in pursuing this protest and would love to see more kids doing these types of things,” said Ralph, who works at Sustainable Woodstock and sits on the climate caucus in the Legislature.
Ralph couldn’t be at the protest on Friday, but he read a letter on the floor in support.
“These global protests are the physical manifestation of the frustration and discontent felt at the inadequate response to climate change,” he read. “The leadership shown by our youth in organizing this global movement highlights the importance of this issue, and who will be most impacted by the actions that we chose to take or not take.”
Ralph urged other legislators to sign his letter.
“We are at a tipping point, with less than 15 years to make changes before we have created irreversible damage to our environment,” Ralph read. “We no longer have time for bureaucracy, excuses, and delays. We recognize that we need to make the time to find solutions to this crisis now.”
Student organizers gave speeches in Woodstock.
“Many people are afraid to admit they’re part of the increase—afraid to take ownership of the detrimental effects of climate change,” student Erica Kurash said.
Kurash said seemingly small changes add up.
Meanwhile, Noah Anderson laid out a “gloomy” vision of the future.
“We’re hovering at a tipping point,” he said. “Human life will change permanently and not for the better.”
Anderson said it wasn’t too late to change.
“We could mitigate the effects of global warming and change millions of lives,” he said.
The event attracted not just students, but community members from near and far.
Shelley Lockyear of Wilmington drove about an hour with her 4-year-old son, Harry.
“We wanted to start teaching our son he needs to be involved,” she said.
Harry who wore a sign as big he as was that read, “Don’t be a fossil fool,” as he shyly stood in front of the group with his mother and uttered four simple words into a microphone: “Climate change isn’t cool,” he said as people laughed and applauded.
Following the speeches, students walked to the Universalist Unitarian Church and wrote letters to their legislators in the basement before walking back to class.
“It’s the most pressing issue facing our world right now,” Anderson, one of the organizers, said.
Photo by Katy Savage
Harry Lockyear, 4, was one of about 100 who protested climate change on the Woodstock Green, March 15.