Ashland, Oregon — About 350 Ashland High School students Friday joined a global strike for climate change action, marching a mile in a 100-yard-long line, making impromptu speeches at the downtown Plaza and waving signs that read, "Your mistake is my future," "If you can't act like adults, we will" and "Why am I studying for a future I won't have?"
The students, including some from Ashland Middle School, cut class and chanted as they marched down East Main Street, "Climate change is not a lie, please don't let our planet die."
The march was one of some 2,000 Youth 4 Climate actions staged in 123 countries, drawing well over a million young people, according to news reports. It was inspired by 16-year-old Nobel Prize nominee Greta Thunberg of Sweden.
Pointing out the beautiful, sunny day, Marin Monteith said, “What we want is more beautiful days for us, our children and everyone in our future. It’s not going to be handed to us, so we have to fight for it. Today is the start of a mass movement that will make us not just heard, but listened to.”
Using a bullhorn, Vivian Mulkins said her dad and other adults are asking, “What is walking out of class going to do for climate?” She told him, “Our Earth is the only one we can live on, and we have to take action while we can, before it gets much worse.”
Nick Hemmerling told the cheering crowd that when people get together and take action, big changes, such as marriage equality, ending the Vietnam War and banning segregation, have happened.
“I was angry that I have to find a solution to problems I did not create. I’m a kid. My job is to study, but I can’t do it if the town is an ember pile from wildfire,” Hemmerling said. “But we, the people, have a lot to do now, and I’m so wildly, insanely proud of you for showing up and demanding action.”
Sophomore Kai Richardson, in an interview, said the devastations of wildfire, flooding, “tons of snow and 120-degree days” are not being dealt with, and a recent UN report says it’s “way worse than we thought. Congress doesn’t act but has the ability to enable green energy, which would be a much better investment still I have faith in my generation. We have the will to do this.”
The rally was notable for its absence of official adult leaders — just regular students having the courage to take the concrete stage for a few minutes — and get mass hugs when they stepped down.
In an interview, Southern Oregon Climate Action Now board member Hogan Sherrow, father of seventh-grader and demonstrator Sortia Sherrow, said, “It’s a great turnout by youth who understand the importance of climate action, and it’s so impressive they left school to do it. They could have taken off and done other things, but almost all of them are here. They understand you can pressure adults into making something happen. They understand they don’t have a future if it’s just business as usual.”
Sortia Sherrow said, “This demonstration of so many young people says to me that our generation really does care. Some wanted to skip out, but when everyone is speaking, you can see it really does matter to us.”
Anastasia Villarreal, an AHS freshman, said many students reported that parents didn’t want them to cut class and march, “but it’s really great how many do care about the world, but it’s also crazy how many don’t care a whole lot or don’t believe in climate change. If you don’t care about the Earth, you don’t care about yourself and you don’t get it that there is no planet-B.”
Bailey Mustard, a journalist with the AHS “Rogue News,” said climate is “a super big issue” and the president is “not paying attention to the needs of the planet.”
Her fellow journalist Kali De St. Phalle added, “We want to see a future for our generation and future generations, and if there’s no planet, there’s no future.”
One girl waved a placard with a picture of the Earth, noting, “You wouldn’t destroy our houses, so why destroy our home?”
Others said, “Save the World, Not the Money” and “Climate Change is Real, You Big Dummy.”
Allie Rosenbluth, campaign director for Rogue Climate, noted that Ashland City Council at an evening study session on Monday will be updating the town’s Energy & Action Plan, largely passed with intense student lobbying.
“It’s important young people attend, because the council will be prioritizing climate adaptation and climate solutions,” Rosenbluth said.
“This makes it real clear that we need to elect leaders who listen to young people,” she added at the demonstration Friday. “I’m so inspired that Ashland’s youth got together and made this happen. They are our hope, and they’re going to do it.”
John Darling is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at email@example.com.