Helena Schools Join Global Protests on Climate

On September 20th, Helena joined in on the global youth-led strike on climate change. Three days before the United Nations summit, teen activist Greta Thunberg called for the protest “Fridays for Future.” One year and one month after the viral photo of her first lone walkout, the School Strike for Climate set the record for the largest climate protest in history, with over 150 countries and 4 million people participating. Helena High School, Capital High, Smith Elementary, and many others participated in this movement uniting as one of the thousands of events worldwide. 

As well as acknowledging the global problem of climate change, our city’s protest was directly pressuring the city council and the proposed bill committing to 100% clean energy by 2030. With this bill being voted on in 10 days, the speech from the mayor and senate candidate Wilmont Collins stressed the importance of this commitment in his speech. Helena could be the second city in Montana to pledge clean energy after Missosula passed the bill unanimously in April.

 On the steps of the county building, a senior at capital, speaker and organizer Sheamus White led a chant yelling “Come on congress let’s be fair, let us breath in good clean air.” The turnout of over 200 people all participated. After the chant was done, Whyte said “I hope to exercise my right to protest and petition all in one go for 100 percent clean energy. Climate change needs to be eliminated.”

Helena high senior, Hanna Muskiewicz, also attended the protest. “I’m 16 years old and im really freaking scared.. I want to have kids, I want to live a full life and not die because of climate change. Protests like these, so many people are advocating for what they believe in and that’s what gives me hope, it’s that we are stepping away from school and our other responsibilities to be here today,” Muszkiewicz said.

Critics of this global protest have said that it isn’t worth students missing school, however Helena’s participants proved that involvement is more than just skipping school. Keira Sumners, an HHS junior attended the event. “We need to move quick, we haven’t done anything about it [climate change] since fossil fuels have been used. I care about my future,” Sumners said.  

The second protest took place at Lockey Park, and was a much more student centered event. A speaker from the first, an artist that made the bengal tiger, shared his opinion on the event and how it went. “Every single one of us should be trying to make the world a better place, not just to take whatever we can grab like what the rich and the energy companies are doing, people my age have been part of the problem, and it would be a terrible disservice to give young people a world that isn’t clean and sustainable, But because of the kind of devotion i see, i think we can really bring the world around, this is the wave of the future,” he said.

Although less than half the original crowd size turned up, it was still an empowering experience. Parents and children from elementary schools, high school students and other concerned community members were there.. A long time activist and voter registration volunteer Janice Williams attended. “I’ve been involved with climate change activism for about sixty years. I want more people to look at the facts and step forward, no one is going to listen unless we do,” Williams said. She summarized the narrative of this event: that people need to show up and continue to stay involved to make a change. Finally, at the end of the day a large group of elementary students marched down to the park, holding signs and chanting. They gave a heartbreaking reminder of what this all is for; soon climate change will be irreversible and this younger generation will grow up in a world forever altered.

 

Photos by Maya Barany

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