Islanders are coming together to join in a global climate strike Friday to protest worldwide inaction on climate change and advocate for immediate policy change.
Vineyard students from the West Tisbury School and the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS) will be hopping on the ferry and traveling to city centers in New York and Boston to participate in large-scale protests.
Students from the local environmental advocacy group Plastic Free MV will head to New York on Thursday and stay overnight, in order to attend the strike on Friday, where young environmental activist Greta Thunberg is scheduled to speak in the afternoon.
West Tisbury school teacher and organizer for Plastic Free MV Annemarie Ralph said the kids have been working hard and deserve a fun trip off-Island.
“It will be fun, but it’s also very purposeful,” Ralph said. “It’s a great reward for all their dedication, but it will also be good for them to see kids taking action in other states and countries.”
Plastic Free MV member Emma Bena said she is excited to meet with other students with similar goals and ambitions, and make connections with other young climate advocates. “Even though we have been doing so much on the Island, sometimes it seems like people don’t listen, or we aren’t reaching enough people,” Emma said.
Emma said she is looking forward to sharing her ideas with others, and learning about the plights that other communities deal with in the face of climate change.
Another member of Plastic Free, Quinlan Slavin, said he hopes to learn about what other kids are doing in their communities that may inform the next steps for the group here on the Island.
“We want to take bigger steps on Martha’s Vineyard, so I hope that maybe we can take some stuff other people are doing and bring it here,” Quinlan said.
Jasper Ralph of Plastic Free said strikes and protests on the Island only reach a small population of people, but a global strike in New York will give the group a bigger spotlight.
“This is a huge problem, and people need to understand how important it is,” Jasper said.
“Going to New York will show the world how many people want to make change.”
While West Tisbury students are picketing in New York, MVRHS students will make a day trip to Boston to make their voices heard.
Led by science teacher Louis Hall, students in the Protect Your Environment Club began picketing every Friday in front of the high school during the 2018–19 school year to bring awareness to issues such as sea level rise, habitat degradation, and ocean pollution.
The club restarted last year after a year of inactivity, and has been heavily involved in local climate efforts ever since.
This time, they will hold their posters high at a global stage, surrounded by thousands of like-minded people young and old.
Some posters students made spoke to specific problems on the Island, while others were more broad.
One poster read, “Act now or swim later,” while another said, “I bet the dinosaurs thought they had time too.”
MVRHS student Rachel Salop said she picketed during the March for Our Lives initiative, and felt empowered by the passion she saw while in Washington, D.C. “These types of marches and protests are very important, because we want people to see how many of us care about fighting climate change,” Salop said.
Owen Favreau, another member of the Protect Your Environment Club, said picketing in front of the high school is a good effort, but does not attract enough attention to the issue of climate change. “Standing outside on a cold February morning only attracted about four people. Going to Boston will bring attention to the larger movement,” Owen said.
Owen said he hopes that in the very near future, governments and economies will switch to a more ecological way of thinking, instead of being driven by money and power. “I want people to understand that there are ways to continue growing our economy without fossil fuels, by implementing more efficient methods,” Owen said.
Thea Keene said she hopes to teach people about specific environmental concerns here on the Island, but also to learn about initiatives that are happening in other states and countries. “We want to hear from other people what has worked for them, and what still needs to be changed in other places,” Thea said.
Many students at the high school have been taking steps in their own lives to enact change on a smaller scale.
Emily Gazzaniga said she thinks everyone can make a difference as long as they put their mind to it. “Although it’s good to be striking here at the school, I think a large organized strike like this will be more effective,” Emily said.
As junior class president last year, Emily said one of her main goals was to advocate for sustainability within the school. “Last year we created a waste-free cafeteria system, so to see that in action this year is very empowering,” Emily said. “The culture on the Vineyard seems to be that lots of people know about global issues.”
But Emily said folks in other communities that don’t see an immediate impact from climate change might not be as involved in climate advocacy initiatives. “This really is a global issue that everyone should be aware of,” Emily said.
For those who aren’t able to travel to Boston or New York, there are plenty of Island events that help spread the word about climate change.
The Aquinnah Cultural Center and the Island Climate Action Network will host an event at the Aquinnah Circle on Friday at 7:30 am. There will be a ceremony as a blue marble flag is hoisted above the U.S. flag to show our commitment to taking care of the earth.
At 11 am, people are encouraged to gather at Red Beach in Menemsha for a flotilla to paddle, row, or putter to the Menemsha Dock, where there will be another event. Text 917-670-7214 for more information.
From 3:30 pm to 4 pm, Island Grown Initiative will host an event at Thimble Farm, highlighting regenerative agriculture and food waste reduction as important climate solutions.
Churches across Martha’s Vineyard will ring their bells in solidarity with the climate strike at 11 am on Friday.
In response to the global climate actions taking place, U.S. Rep. Bill Keating wrote in his opening remarks to the Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia, Energy, and the Environment, that issues surrounding climate change require immediate action.
“We are witnessing the effects of climate change daily,” Keating wrote. “Our generation has failed to adequately address our climate crisis. This failure isn’t fatal, yet our failure to change will be.”