ETHS students strike for climate action

Zachary Bahar, Louise Bond, and Rebecca Lustig

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On Sept. 20, around 200 students walked out of ninth period to protest the lack of immediacy given to the threat of climate change by the government, including by ETHS and the City of Evanston.

“It seems so outrageously obvious. There are so many statistics and so many signs saying that our earth is dying, and the fact that our government is not really doing anything or making it a pressing issue really frustrates me…. This is our home and we don’t have another planet; we can’t go somewhere else,” junior Callie Stolar, an Evanston Climate Action member, said. 

The September walkout was the second climate strike led by Evanston Climate Action, the first taking place on March 15, 2018. It was part of a week-long international strike led by Norwegian activist Greta Thunberg in advance of the UN’s Climate Action Summit on Sept. 27, which aims to improve upon the commitments made during the 2015 Paris Agreement, which, according to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, aimed to “bring all nations into a common cause to undertake ambitious efforts to combat climate change and adapt to its effects.” However, it has proven challenging to implement following Trump’s 2017 decision to withdraw from the Agreement.

With many nations, following America’s lead, refusing to follow through on those commitments, the student-led movement has gained increasing traction.

“We need to show the way for the next generation because if we don’t change this right now, it’s just going to go downhill,” sophomore Daniella Escobar said while attending the walkout. 

While the movement may be international, Evanston Climate Action gave a list of Evanston specific demands such as the implementation of the Climate Action Resilience Plan, mandating environmental education for District 65 and ETHS and an increase in renewable energy and composting within the community. These come in addition to national demands that the US implement the Green New Deal and rejoin the Paris Agreements.

“[Education is] basic because a lot of my peers don’t know [what’s happening]. It’s huge, it’s our planet, it’s going to impact us,” senior Bella Hubbard, an Evanston Climate Action member, said. “I want the schools and Evanston in general, showing students that they care about our future.”

While Evanston Climate Action staged the protest with the hopes of raising greater awareness about the issues, something even more important was accomplished through the use of Instagram (@etown_climate_action) and in the speeches given at the strike by organizers and representatives such as Robyn Gabel (Illinois District 18) and Senator Laura Fine (Illinois  District 9): empowering students to get involved in this fight and protect our planet.

“We didn’t want students walking away saying ‘What can I do?’ because they have been given so much information and new things they can try to get involved in,” junior and Evanston Climate Team president, and Evanston Climate Action member, Mia Houseworth said. “There are so many resources in this school if you want to get involved… [in] working towards implementing these goals.”

One step in accomplishing the goals laid forth is the Sustainability Committee of the ETHS School Board, which while still being developed, aims to move ETHS towards renewable energy sources, cut down on single-use plastics and increase the amount of recycling and composting done in the school. 

“We’re out of time and we’re out of ways to show that we care about this, they aren’t listening to us so at this point this is our only option, we have to make them listen,” Stolar said. “They should be scared of us, we’re coming.”