‘No intelligent species would destroy its own environment:’ Madison students plan climate strike
Why local students say the time to act is now
MADISON, Wis. — Madison students are joining young adults from across the country and around the world in the fight against climate change. Friday morning, Madison-area students are planning a march from East High to the Capitol.
The march, called the “Youth Climate Strike,” is meant to show students’ solidarity on the climate crisis. They’re petitioning state legislators in Wisconsin to take bold action to help fight the irreversible effects of climate change.
Student organizers said the strike will make it clear there is no compromising on science. According to the UN, temperatures are on track to get at least four degrees warmer by the end of this century, if we don’t make any environmental changes.
As temperatures rise, glaciers melt, sea levels rise, and island and coastlines begin to disappear. If nothing is done within the next 11 years, climatologists warn many of these changes may become permanent.
Students involved in the march are concerned about their futures. That’s why they’re speaking up by marching out of class.
“We need to stop abusing our Earth like this because it’s threatening our existence and we don’t have another place to go,” said Max Prestigiacomo, a Middleton High School student and organizer of Friday’s local strike.
“No intelligent species would destroy their own environment or the environment they benefit off,” said Ella Kunstman, a student at Madison West.
For Madison-area students, this issue is personal: every year of their lives has been one of the warmest on record. Extreme weather events, like record flooding, heat waves, and extreme cold are becoming the new norm. Many believe that, if nothing is done to stop global warming, their generation will be the ones left to deal with catastrophic consequences.
“One thing we’re supporting is bringing the Green New Deal to Madison,” said Isabella Spitznagle, a student at Madison West. “We’re bringing a resolution in front of the city council next week, so we’re asking people to support that, and if we can get it passed, we’re going to the state level.”
Students believe this issue is something both Democrats and Republicans can rally behind. A recent poll by the Yale Program on Climate Communication and the George Mason University Center for Climate Change found that 92 percent of registered Democrats and 64 percent of registered Republicans back the Green New Deal plan.
“All I want here is evidence-based politics,” said Prestigiacomo. “I don’t think that’s too much to ask for. When the majority of scientists say we have 11 years to solve the planet crisis before we see irrevocable effects, it’s honestly scary and it’s insulting that anyone would think it’s fake.”
Prestigiacomo said he and his classmates are taught in school that climate change is real, and the disparity between what he’s taught in public school and the message from the government is what he finds troublesome.
“We’re calling out that contradiction between the two worlds because it’s our future and we’re here to protect that,” said Prestigiacomo.
“I know it’s an extreme word, but we’re starting to panic because it’s so soon in our future that we’re going to see such dramatic effects, said Kunstman.
The local strike is part of an international movement on Friday, with marches planned in more than 90 countries and 1,200 cities around the world. The movement first kicked off in Sweden last year. Students from the U.K. and France to Colombia and Australia have all participated in similar strikes.
While strikers around the world have slightly different demands, the common theme is that they want their government to aggressively cut greenhouse gas emissions.
Local students have very specific demands for state legislators. Some are big, like eventually moving to 100 percent renewable energy by 2050. Others are small, like choosing to use paper straws rather than plastic ones.
The Youth Climate Strike starts at 11:45 a.m., although students are planning to meet 30 minutes beforehand outside East High. Once on the square, students will hold a rally on the State Street side of the Capitol to make the case for climate change policy to legislators.
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