Students struck by climate crisis

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West Tisbury school students from Plastic Free MV participate in the global climate march in New York City. - Courtesy Annemarie Ralph

To the Editor:

On Thursday, Sept. 19, a group of four students from the West Tisbury School headed to New York City for the Global Climate March. The students are all members of the group Plastic Free MV. This is the same group that banned plastic water and soda bottles under 34 ounces in West Tisbury, Chilmark, and Aquinnah last year. This year they are trying to do the same in Oak Bluffs, Vineyard Haven, and Edgartown. They traveled to New York to add their voices to those concerned about climate change, to listen to Greta Thunberg (the Swedish activist who started the Climate Strike movement), and to be inspired by other students. The trip was a big success.

Climate strikers in New York City had three demands:

  • An immediate end to the extraction and consumption of fossil fuels (from which plastic is made)
  • The prioritization of frontline communities, workers, and those least responsible for the climate crisis, along with globally equitable climate solutions in the transition to a 100 percent renewable economy.
  • Hold polluters accountable.

They planned their trip to NYC to be as eco-friendly as possible, fully aware of their carbon emissions. They brought signs they had made during recess at school (see photo). The signs were cut into the shapes of animals affected by climate change and/or plastic pollution. Emma made an albatross carcass filled with plastic pieces (for more information on this problem, please see plasticpollutioncoalition.org/blog/2018/5/14/albatross). Quinlan made his sign in the shape of an entangled whale fluke. Elliot’s poster was in the shape of the “This Is Fine” dog, with a burning earth behind it. Jasper’s poster was a polar bear with a comment about sea level rise. Annemarie, their teacher, had a poster with an entangled seal with one word, “Help,” and Mollie, a parent chaperone, made a sea turtle that read, “You’re Killing Me!” Their signs were quite a hit at the march, and lots of people asked to take pictures of them.

At the rally before the march, at Foley Square, the students were shocked and dismayed at the amount of marchers with balloons in their hands, considering how environmentally unfriendly they are. They were also shocked to find that they were the only ones booing whenever a balloon was accidentally or otherwise released. It seems people need more education on this topic. They were also appalled at the amount of single-use plastic water and soda bottles that were carried by marchers at the event. 

At 1 pm on Friday, the students marched and chanted along with the crowd all the way to Battery Park. The number of marchers was estimated to be 250,000 people in New York City alone (4 million worldwide). Once at Battery Park, the students waited patiently in the blazing sun for the speakers to begin. Some top highlights were Jaden and Willow Smith performing, Rebeca Sabnam, a 16-year-old activist from Bangladesh, speaking about the people in poverty in her country who have suffered from flooding, and of course Greta Thunberg. Greta spoke about how everywhere she went the politicians and celebrities always said how great she was, how they admired what she was doing, then took a selfie with her … but never took any real action. She is a powerful speaker, and everyone in the huge crowd was very motivated. During the speeches four people needed a medic called. During Greta’s speech she had to stop because people in the crowd were yelling “Medic,” and we all waited until the person was taken away for help. The other speakers talked about very important issues and ways we can help along with what we want from politicians. 

The kids from Plastic Free MV left the march and New York City with lots of new ideas and renewed hope. The event showed them that they were not alone, and could actually make a difference in this world, especially with more and more people joining together to help each other and demand a better world now and in our future. For more information on Plastic Free MV, please visit our website, plasticfreemv.com

Quinlan Slavin, Annemarie Ralph, Emma Bena, Elliot Stead, Jasper Ralph
West Tisbury