Advocating for action and raising their young voices over concerns about the growing climate change crisis, students from Homer High School walked out of their last class of the day and held a Homer Youth Climate Strike last Friday.
Homer students joined the ranks of young people across the world who took to the streets last week in climate protests that stretched from Berlin to New York City.
Forty-five students left school before their sixth period to attend the climate rally. All were given excused absences by their parents, according to Secretary Cindy Koplin.
The students marched out of the school, grabbed one of myriad signs, and continued down to the Wisdom, Knowledge, Faith and Love Park on Pioneer Avenue to hold the rally. It was held with support from both Cook Inletkeeper and the Kachemak Bay Conservation Society.
Joining the students in the park was a crowd of adults and community members, including Homer City Council member Donna Aderhold and Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly member Kelly Cooper. They chanted and listened to speeches by a number of student speakers.
Senior Sophie Morin, one of the speakers, said that, in her mind, climate change is the most important issue facing the world today.
“Because it’s our future,” she said. “Without the planet we don’t have anything. I think that we’ve been procrastinating addressing it for far too long, and that we need to take action now. Otherwise it’s too late.”
“A lot of the adults here will die of old age, but we’ll die of climate change if we don’t do something now,” Morin said when asked why she thought students should be participating in climate activism.
Larrs Jones, a junior, said people her age are the future and that it’s important for them to be a part of the conversation.
“It’s for our future, for our children,” she said.
Jones said it’s not uncommon for people her age to doubt whether they even want to have children, “because they’re so terrified for the lives of everyone.”
“I don’t want everything gone and dead,” Jones said. “I want to have a future and I want to live. And I want, if I have kids, (for them) to live. I want everyone’s kids to live.”
Payton Tobin, a sophomore, said he became aware of climate change as a major problem about six years ago.
“It’s really important to do whatever we can to fight climate change on a global scale, even if it is just walking out of our school and protesting,” he said.
Tobin echoed the statements made by other students that young people have an important role to play in the fight against climate change.
“We’re the ones who are going to be living here longer,” he said. “If we don’t effect change, then we’re going to have a harder time living.”
Those who attended the rally were invited to look through educational booths set up by local organizations, as well as sign a petition asking the Kenai Peninsula Borough to implement a comprehensive climate action plan into the assembly’s updated Comprehensive Plan.
Cooper, who attended to support the students, said she plans to support the inclusion of a climate action plan into the comprehensive plan as an assembly member.
“I will happily support that,” she said. “I actually will sponsor it and do what I can do.”
As someone who has a lot of youth in her life through her business and family members, Cooper said she’s always believed that young people are the answer.
“They have the answers, and we have to start respecting and listening to them,” she said.
Meanwhile, back at the high school, Rep. Sarah Vance (R-Homer) held two listening sessions in the library. One was during the fifth period of the day and had several dozen students in attendance. The second was held during sixth period, the same time as the climate strike, and had six students attending.
Vance held the sessions to provide an alternative for students to the climate strike, she said in a press release ahead of the event.
“I want to encourage students to stay in school,” Vance said in the press release. “We can have productive conversations about important issues without neglecting education. I intend to utilize this time to listen to students’ concerns and emphasize that meaningful conversation precedes meaningful change.”
During the first session, students asked Vance about renewable energy, the realities of implementing it in Alaska, the state’s oil and gas tax structure and more.
Vance said she thinks it’s important to provide students with opportunities to learn more about what it is that their local lawmakers do in Juneau. She plans to hold more student listening sessions in the future and has reached out to let other schools on the southern Kenai Peninsula know that she will make herself available for them.
“Students have the same questions as adults,” she said. “They are young adults. Part of what I feel is that we just need to have an open dialogue about, you know, lawmakers are accessible.”