Updated 5:20 pm
On Friday, Islanders of all ages took part in a global effort to bring awareness to climate change, and the devastating effects it will have on Martha’s Vineyard and the world.
Organized by young climate activists like Greta Thunberg, the global strike called for immediate action from policymakers and a systematic shift away from fossil fuels.
But Islanders weren’t just raising their voices locally — many traveled to the mainland to take part in larger demonstrations.
Students from the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS) were striking in Boston alongside thousands of other activists, while West Tisbury School students from Plastic Free MV were making their voices heard in New York.
At 9:30 am, a group of high school students could be heard outside MVRHS chanting, “Save the earth!”
Students held handmade posters that read “Stop denying our earth is dying,” and “The climate is changing. Why aren’t we?”
Science teacher Carrie Fyler said the students took their flex block time to protest and picket for swift climate action Friday.
“But all day long our science classes are striking for the climate, and teachers will be bringing students out here to peacefully demonstrate — to try and have our voices heard,” Fyler said.
Freshmen Hannah Murphy and Jocelyn Baliunas are part of the high school’s Protect Your Environment Club. They told The Times what Friday’s global climate strike meant to them. “It means I’m not afraid to show that I care about our planet,” Murphy said.
“Showing everyone our generation is willing to make the commitment to save our world,” Baliunas added.
The two students offered quick advice for Islanders and anyone looking to make a difference: “Reduce your waste. Try shopping for more organic meats, or cut out meat entirely if you can,” Baliunas said. “Which is hard, but if you can, it helps.”
Murphy suggested walking more and using public transportation instead of driving your car.
Island churches also made their own contribution to the climate strike by ringing their bells for 11 minutes at 11 am, to symbolize the 11th hour of climate change, and the urgency of the situation.
It was a quiet morning in Menemsha when organizer Elissa Turnbull and her kids arrived for the climate strike. Carrying a wicker basket full of flowers and an armful of hand-drawn signs, Turnbull made her way down to the dock and started to set up, waiting for the rest of the kids and parents of the Chilmark School to arrive.
Soon after, organized chaos ensued. Kids got their faces painted with Earths and rainbows, and flowers and signs were passed out. Nearly all of the fourth and fifth grade classes of the Chilmark School, as well as parents, kids from the Charter School, and other supporters, came to the docks for the strike under a “Protect Our Oceans” theme.
The flowers represent wishes for the ocean and world, Turnbull explained to The Times. As the group waited for the flotilla of kayaks, canoes, and paddleboarders to arrive, the kids tossed the flowers into the water, making their wishes.
The flotilla, consisting of about a dozen rowers, launched from Red Beach in Aquinnah, and rowed against the current to Menemsha harbor. The group greeted them with cheers and then sang, “This Land Is Your Land.”
Lisa Vanderhoop said she enjoyed the celebration, and thought people were very passionate and involved. For next year, Vanderhoop suggested voting pledges and pledges to live more sustainably.
“Maybe a pledge to give up Mylar balloons, or some information on resources here on the Vineyard,” Vanderhoop said. “And we need to encourage young people to vote whenever we can; that is what’s going to make a difference.”
She also said teaching people about recycling, composting, and other sustainable practices is essential to the movement. “It’s all about action,” Vanderhoop said.
Charter School student Runar Finn Robinson, 12, who goes by Finn, spoke to the group and explained the inspiration behind the worldwide climate strike: activist Greta Thunberg, 16, of Sweden. “Let’s grow this movement in the U.S.,” Finn said. “[Climate change] is the problem of this millennium, and it’s this generation’s problem to solve.”
“[Greta] is very inspiring, I mean she came up with this whole movement,” Finn told The Times. “I think the school strike idea is a great thing because it’s a way students can actually do something and cause a disturbance.” Finn, who was wearing a Plastic Free MV T shirt, is also a part of the plastic free movement, which was started by students on the Island. “The greater goal is to continue the school strike to pressure the politicians like Rep. [Bill] Keating, who has been a little reluctant about it … but we’re lucky we’re in a state that is blue … we’ll continue until we accomplish those goals.”
Noli Taylor, another parent and organizer of the climate strike events, told The Times, “I think it’s such a hopeful thing to see all these children in the next generation standing up and calling on us as adults to do all that we can to protect our future.”
At Five Corners, a sizable demonstration of more than 50 people gathered with signs and banners saying “Take action on climate,” and “Our planet needs us to care.”
The demonstration was organized by We Stand Together and supported by the Island Climate Action Network.
Eva Raposa stood with her daughter at the edge of the sidewalk, and shouted at drivers to honk in support of the cause. She said climate change is an issue that affects every aspect of life in all corners of the world. “I am concerned about all the different little pieces that some people aren’t taking very seriously,” Raposa said.
Choices that we make in our everyday lives, Raposa said, are just as essential as taking part in protests. “Every way we can be involved is important. Once we start to think that way, I hope things will change,” Raposa said. “We need to do better.”
Kathy Laskowksi said she wants people to pay attention to the facts and keep their eyes open to the changes that can be felt in every locality as a result of climate change.
“People say, ‘Oh, climate change isn’t happening,’ but that is not a good mindset. You need to have a wider view, no matter where you live,” Laskowski said.
Ben Robinson stood alongside his children at the strike. He said that although it is important to participate in large demonstrations off-Island like the one his family and he attended last year, there is just as much of a need to participate here at home. “Every locality sees the impact of climate change; it’s all over the planet,” Robinson said.
In response to those who deny that the climate is warming as a result of human impact, Robinson said “manufactured denial” is widespread and damaging to the progress of the climate advocacy movement. “There is no such thing as scientific denial. The facts are out there, but some people don’t care,” Robinson said.
At Island Grown Initiative’s Farm Hub at Thimble Farm, folks gathered in a circle and each shared one word of hope for the future of the planet. Some said cooperation, compassion, or education was their hope for the future, while others were more specific, wishing for clean air and water.
Kat Soni of Island Grown led the group in a song about being grateful for the gifts that our planet provides: “I am grateful to be, breathing, heart beating, and free. Even though hard times are all around me, I am grateful to be.”
After the song, people were given a tour of the farm, and all the aspects of regenerative agriculture that Island Grown represents.
Noli Taylor of IGI said she wants people to feel hopeful for the future after leaving the event, and look for ways to help the earth.
“These are real problems that we are facing, but there are real and incredible solutions to those problems. All we need to do is come together and have hope,” Taylor said.
Brittany Bowker and Gabrielle Mannino contributed to this report.
Brittany Bowker and Gabrielle Mannino contributed to this report.