The voices of hundreds of Bozemanites echoed down Main Street on Friday, combined as part of a global movement demanding action on climate change by world governments. Despite a cold downpour of rain, groups of protesters gathered at Montana Hall, Bozeman High School and Cooper Park before converging downtown on a march to Bogert Park.
The procession of people chanted phrases such as “Like water, we rise” and “hey ho, hey ho, fossil fuels have got to go” while displaying homemade signs expressing frustration with the current status of climate change policy.
Gallatin Valley’s local Sunrise Movement chapter, together with the Montana Sierra Club, organized the march. Live music sounded from the amphitheatre as protesters arrived at Bogert Park, followed messages from a variety of speakers both young and old.
“As a 22-year-old, I have a lot to lose to the climate crisis, as do we all. It means so much to me to see all of you here standing up for my future like I am standing up for yours,” Sarah Blessing, leader of the local Sunrise Movement chapter and organizer of the march, said. “We are all in this together. We are all fighting for each other and our right to a livable planet. We are not alone.”
Students from local elementary schools also joined in on the line to the microphone.“The principal of my school decided not to support this march and told the students that we would get an unexcused absence if we decided to go,” A 12-year-old said. “But me and a lot of my friends came anyway because saving our planet is more important than getting a tardy.”
Adult speakers focused on the roots of the climate strike as a youth movement, emphasizing a need to listen to the growing voices of young people in the community.“We need to start listening to youth around the world, and we need to start listening to youth in the United States, and we need to start listening to youth in Montana and maybe we need to listen really closely to the youth in Bozeman,” MSU Community Development professor Paul Lachapelle said.
The climate strike coincided with Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg’s Fridays for Future campaign, a student movement initiated when the 16-year-old began skipping school to sit outside the Swedish Parliament building, to protest the inaction of politicians regarding the issue of global warming. In preparation for a gathering of world leaders at the United Nations Climate Action Summit starting Sept. 23, Thunberg sailed to New York City in a zero-emissions boat to join Friday’s international climate strikes and testify in front of congress.
“Today, you are standing with Greta and climate activists around the globe demanding urgent action,” Episcopal priest Valerie Webster, a member of the Gallatin Valley Interfaith Association, stated. “You are also, appropriately, calling adults out for putting our present before your future. You are right, the climate crisis is indisputably here now.”
Montana is no exception to the impact of climate change. According to the Montana Climate Assessment, composed of work by students and faculty members of both MSU and the University of Montana, average annual temperatures in the state have risen 1.1 to 1.7 degrees Celsius, while average temperatures in winter and spring have risen 2.2 degrees Celsius. While these alterations in temperature may have a concentrated positive impact on Montana ecosystems in the short term, the authors of the report predict a net-negative impact in the long run. In summary, forested areas will likely decline while the state sees a decrease in average snowpack, shrinking access to water; damaging environments that state economy depends on.
Speakers from the Sunrise Movement shared a list of actions they argue are vital to preventing these trends from becoming more severe. Among them were demands for the country to become carbon neutral by 2030 and to recognize the right of nature in law. They emphasized the need for individuals to make a difference by altering daily habits.
Ayonna Lindsey, a sophomore at MSU who attended the climate strike, reduces her carbon footprint by adhering to a vegan diet. She emphasized the need for students to educate themselves on the issue. “My children and my children’s grandchildren will not have a world to live in and there’s a lot of challenges to overcome for future generations,” Lindsey pointed out. “This generation is the one that can change things, that kind of has to, it’s been put on our shoulders.”
Each speaker concluded with a positive message for the crowd.
“The essence of democracy is all around us on this lawn and in over five thousand marches in 150 countries across this planet. It’s not about leaving these crucial decisions up to politicians in their insulated government buildings or agreeing on every detail before we start, or having the answers to getting where we’re going,” Sarah Blessing said. “A livable future is about knowing what’s necessary, what’s possible, and what’s right. It’s about letting go of the failures that got us here, recognizing that we can be the force to drive the change we must create, and demanding it of the people who ask the privilege of representing us.”
Transcribed Interview/Speech Quotes:
Ayonna Lindsey, Sophomore, Civil Engineer
“[I decided to go to the strike] because climate change is real and happening and is just important.”
“[It is important to strike] just to get information out there and let authorities know that this is important and should be addressed and that people are willing to do things about it.”
“Not the most popular opinion but definitely cutting back on animal agriculture. With dietary recommendations not recommending dairy which is not necessary to live. and then just recommending eating more plants and less animals is a big thing but also deferring to scientists a little bit more.”
Roadblocks for change: “Big industries, lobbying, oil industry, dairy industry, oil and agricultural industries.”
“I hope that more people become educated, especially of the conservative types. I know a lot of conservatives in Bozeman are very forward-thinking but just kind of changing those that still aren't, that would be awesome to see.”
Youth becoming more educated: “Watching News, reading through research studies or even just the abstracts of published research studies would be really helpful. I think a lot of young people are actually just getting educated through Youtube is one of the things I’ve seen my friends do at least. They’ll watch people who do read the research and then kind of report on it or just the little snippets of news that are easier to watch than the whole report.”
“My children and my children’s grandchildren will not have a world to live in and there’s a lot of challenges to overcome for future generations, specifically because of choices of past generations and this [generation] is the one that can change things, that kind of has to, it’s been put on our shoulders.”
-Got in to veganism when she saw a poster for thrive on plants club on campus.
Sarah Blessing, President of Local Sunrise Movement Chapter and Lead Organizer of Strike
“We march today in solidarity with young people around the world who recognize our future is not just at risk but is disintegrating before our eyes. We have the most to lose. Demand a livable planet. This is possible. Change is possible.”
“As a 22-year-old I have a lot to lose to the climate crisis as do we all. It means so much to me to see all of you here standing up for my future like I am standing up for yours. We are all in this together. We are all fighting for each other and our right to a livable planet. We are not alone.”
“Welcome to the future. From this point forward, we cannot wait for our elected officials to lead. Instead, let us join together to choose the future for ourselves. For who knows better than we what our lives must be made of.”
“The essence of Democracy is all around us on this lawn and in over five thousand marches in a 150 countries across this planet. It’s not about leaving these crucial decisions up to politicians in their insulated government buildings or agreeing on every detail before we start, or having the answers to getting where we’re going. A livable future is about knowing what’s necessary, what’s possible, and what’s right. It’s about letting go of the failures that got us here, recognizing that we can be the force to drive the change we must create, and demanding it of the people who ask the privilege of representing us.”
Greg Findley, event organizer and member of Sunrise Movement
“The students have been striking and they said ‘hey adults, it’s time to join us’, that’s why we’re here today.
Youth Speaker Lucy Haggerty (not sure on spelling of name), 12 y/o
“I chose to come here today because I believe that we need to save our planet.”
“My principal of my school decided not to support this march and told the students that we would get an unexcused absence if we decided to go. But me and a lot of my friends came anyway, because saving our planet is more important than getting a tardy. In Yellowstone National Park, which is a short car ride away from us, every year 60 more days are without snow in the park because of our decisions and I think that that’s a really bad thing because in 50 years in Glacier National Park, most of the glaciers will be gone. In 100 years we’ll have to rename the park because there will be no more glaciers.”
“I think that we should all be thinking about this and talking about it on the news but it’s still not happening enough to raise enough awareness for people to stop this.”
“I was really surprised that when we started this march that so many people were here and on a really rainy day. And most of us are young people here and we’re all missing school for this. So thank you for coming and trying to support this climate change act.”
Episcopal Priest Valerie Webster
“I wanted to thank you for inviting those of us with graying hair to join with you.”
-Episcopal Minister, part of the Gallatin Valley Interfaith association
“I stand here officially today in my role as an episcopal minister who is part of the Gallatin Valley Interfaith association. I also stand here unofficially as a baby boomer, your neighbor, a mother and a grandmother.”
“In 1970 when I was 12 years of age at the first Earth Day, Like many of my generation I knew the activists sharing scientific information were speaking truth. I was moved but not to sustained action. As an adult, while I felt a niggling in my gut, I myopically allowed myself to be distracted by life and lulled into the belief that somehow, someway, the collective good intentions and partial engagement of people like me along with technology were making enough of a difference. Today, you are standing with Greta and climate activists around the globe demanding urgent action. You are also, appropriately, calling adults out for putting our present before your future. You are right, the climate crisis is indisputably here now. We were wrong to prioritize other concerns. The ineffective goodwill, the lukewarm indifference, the cynical resignation and the obstructionist denial we baby boomers have demonstrated in the face of decades of environmental degradation done by us and those proceeding us is wrong.”
“Please accept my heartfelt apology as a faith leader as well as a baby boomer, a mother and a grandmother for contributing to the legacy of the climate crisis a toxic inheritance. I strongly suspect the other adults standing in our midst share in regret and sorrow too. Even as you have taken us to task, you have invited us to march and strike with you. Thank you. I pledge, and I sense that the other adults in your midst pledge to do better. You’ve inspired us.”
Paul Lachapelle, MSU Community Development Professor
“We need to start listening to youth around the world, and we need to start listening to youth in the United States, and we need to start listening to youth in Montana and maybe we need to listen really closely to the youth in Bozeman, Montana.”
“We need to be creative in the way that we communicate and the way that we address this issue, and the second piece of advice is that she says don’t underestimate yourself, so don’t let anyone tell you that what we’re doing is not making a difference today, because it is making a difference in terms of the conversations we’re having, its making a difference in terms of the way that people are consuming and using products. It’s making a difference in terms of who’s getting elected to office, and ultimately it’s making a difference in the potential future of a livable planet.”
“Continue your education, however you define that,if it’s formal or informal. And most importantly, don’t let school get in the way of your education. So learn about everything you can, whether it’s the social sciences, or the communication sciences, or atmospheric sciences, or oceanography, or ecology, or biology, or public health. It’s all connected to the climate crisis. There’s so much information out there and the most important thing you can learn is critical thinking skills. Learn the difference between science and science fiction because we’re hearing a lot of science fiction out there on the TV and on the internet.”
From Environmentalist Katherine Wilkinson:
“We need to empower girls and young women, and there are two phenomenon going on right now: the rise of global warming and the rise of the empowerment of young girls and women around the world. She says that gender equity is the key to our planetary challenges.