CEDAR FALLS — Nearly 20 Cedar Falls High School students gathered outside during the lunch hour Thursday in solidarity with activists around the world who staged a walkout last week to protest inaction on climate concerns.
Organizers learned about the youth-led effort to walk out of school and jobs last Friday, the day it was happening, so they publicized their own event with fliers and word of mouth. They got permission from the school’s administration and held it during the lunch-time “power hour” so no one missed a class.
They gathered on bleachers by the track and football field. A half dozen more students were already sitting there eating lunch.
Junior Malvika Khadiya quoted from a speech by 16-year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, who called on governments to do more in dealing with climate change during an address to the United Nations’ Climate Action Summit Monday in New York City.
“We are here because of the movement that Greta started,” said Khadiya. She praised lifestyle changes that students are implementing to reduce their use of disposable items, but said action needs to be taken by governments, as well.
“We must push leaders to take action for environmental justice,” said Anastasia Davidson, a junior who also spoke. She called on the students to contact elected leaders. “Seniors, you will be able to vote in the next election,” added Davidson.
Seniors Audra Dooley and Sophia Schillinger also spoke. Schillinger told attendees about the school’s environmental awareness team, which meets weekly during power hour. Dooley emphasized a change in habits that would lead to more biking or walking, composting, and reusable containers.
She encouraged students to ask elected leaders to create climate action plans. “The solution to climate change is simple: reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” she said.
Khadiya asked the group to go to the nearby parking lot and pick up trash as a way to take immediate action.
One student who came to the event didn’t agree with the climate change message, but joined in the cleanup effort. Junior James Kuener said he and others who “don’t think the world is going to end in 12 years” nonetheless believe it’s important to pick up trash and not litter.
“We still care about the environment,” he said. “We just don’t think the science is there to support climate change.”
Thursday’s effort was “very symbolic,” said Khadiya. “We wanted to raise more awareness about what people can do. We here in Cedar Falls are just as worried and just as concerned about what climate change means for our future.”