Students in the Protect your Environment Club want to make Islanders think about the future of climate change, not just for the next generation, but for many generations to come.
Led by faculty advisor for the club and biology teacher Louis Hall, students exited the MVRHS at 9 am, holding picket signs high in the air for all to see.
The group then stood along the side of the road and waved their signs to spread the message of climate change.
Hall said the Protect your Environment Club has been going strong for many years, but “fizzled out” last year.
This year, the club was restarted alongside efforts by the charter school, after students discussed a Ted Talk by Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg.
Thunberg is credited with starting the first school strike for climate outside the Swedish parliament building, which catalyzed student activism around the world.
Hall has taught various science classes throughout his 10 years as a teacher, and recently replaced Captain John Nelson (his own former biology teacher) at the high school.
The “Strike 4 Climate” served as a demonstration of solidarity and commitment to a cause that some students said is being overlooked — the well-being of our only home.
The walkout coincided with students in Europe demonstrating against climate change, and took place during FLEX period so students wouldn’t miss class time.
Each student held a handmade sign that represented their personal beliefs on the environment and climate change.
Junior Katherine O’Brien held a sign that read “raise your voice, not the sea level.”
She said she hopes people will realize there is a finite amount of time to act on climate change before it’s too late.
“It’s easier for people to ignore climate change because it is such a big deal,” she said. “It seems like people either believe in climate change and want to help, or they don’t want to believe.”
Katherine said that even small things such as not using plastic straws or utensils can make a big difference when it comes to long-term goals.
“I even started bringing my own silverware to school because all they have is plastic utensils,” Katherine said.
When asked what she might say to a climate change denier, Katherine said the facts are out there, and the proof is plain as day. “The scientific facts are available, it’s just some people don’t want to see them,” she said. “This is all really happening.”
Until recently, Katherine said she was interested in environmentalism and the outdoors, but hadn’t yet found an outlet to share her beliefs with her peers and the world.
Now, she said she is happy to be with people who care about the health of the natural world.
Another Junior, Owen Favreau, said he wants people driving by to see the students’ passion for the cause, and maybe take a stand themselves.
“This is a very serious issue, so we need to address it with seriousness,” Owen said.
For Owen, even the smallest gesture is a step in the right direction.
“What people don’t understand is, there is a big difference between being the difference and making a difference,” Owen said. “We are trying to get that earworm in people’s heads, and hopefully they draw inspiration from us.”
Similarly, Owen said he drew inspiration from past climate protests in Europe and across the globe.
Some small things Owen said he does to fight climate change are composting any food waste he produces, as well as taking the opportunity to walk or bike instead of driving.
Junior Caroline Hurley, co-president of the club, said a lot of people don’t think climate change is a big deal and don’t consider it in their daily lives.
“It’s so easy to just do little things every day, but most people don’t even try,” Caroline said. “I always use a refillable water bottle instead of a disposable plastic one, and I pick up trash whenever I walk my dog.”
Junior Kieran Karabees held a sign that read “Nevermind the money, what about the future?”
He said a lot of people are apathetic about climate change because they don’t see it as a priority.
“I really think this [activism] is a productive use of my time,” Kieran said. “Everyone is becoming complacent; don’t just sit around, do something.”
Kieran said he has always been interested in environmental activism and remembers to do something environmentally conscious every day.
“It really doesn’t take much, just start recycling. No matter what you do, you are making a difference and that’s what matters.”
Hall looked at the group of students and smiled. “Hold your signs up higher, we want the world to see this,” he said.
“These kids have a growing sense of agency, they are trying to figure out where they stand in society — maybe they will be politicians or activists, but either way, these kids are the ones who will be the change makers.”