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Students greeted by Ashland community in climate walkout

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In a novel twist to climate protests, 1,000 Ashlanders applauded students who walked out of middle and high school classes Friday morning, then cheered as a couple dozen youth — and only youth — gave impassioned, heartfelt and sometimes halting and shy speeches, all without notes and all begging for a decent future for them and their children.

“Every day I come to school and think, ‘My children might not be able to do this, or I might not even have kids,’ ” said Ashland High School junior Madison Davis. “Why should they try to grow up in a world they can’t survive in?”

Ninth-grader Anya Moore said, “We’re definitely a lot more desperate and angry about the people in power. They’re doing nothing. I’m happy so many people showed up here and that we do have a voice.”

“I want my government and authorities to take action so youth don’t have to,” said eighth-grader Mira Saturen. “I see them not doing anything, not taking a stand, or they deny what’s happening.”

Student Dave Potts said he hasn’t cared much about the Earth, as he assumed smarter people would keep it on track, but instead, the U.S. has backed out of the major global climate agreement and our leaders “don’t understand we’re in pain, the oceans are rising and Mother Earth is punishing us for how we live.”

Junior Sofia Gorin said, “We need to act. It’s easy to get caught up in arguing all the time, but none of these politics will matter if we don’t have a planet to do it on.”

Notable placards said, “We are skipping our lessons to give you one,” “Evidence Over Ignorance,” “Make Earth Great Again,” “R U Ready for a Billion Climate Refugees to Crash on Your Couch,” and “Global Warming is Not Cool.”

People crammed Ashland Plaza, with many waving placards at honking drivers. They were part of the biggest climate protest ever, with media saying “millions” took to the streets around the world.

After the Plaza gathering, hundreds walked to the Lithia Park bandshell for speeches, music, poetry and art — and speakers encouraging people to sign up as volunteers with the nonprofits working to rein in global warming.

Amid songs and poems about the beauty and preciousness of life and nature, the valley’s legislators listened to protesters, with Rep. Pam Marsh standing by her sign asking “What’s on your mind?”

In an interview, Marsh said youth “really have hope about this mess they inherited. The good news is that it seems at the tipping point where the adults in the room understand this is the crisis of our lives and it’s possible to take actions to get us out. We were aware of what was happening when we were their age, and if we’d acted then, we wouldn’t be here now.”

Sen. Jeff Golden, in an interview, said he feels “the center of gravity is shifting because young people; when they talk about the future, people listen. Boomers have to look at how we can support them. America has the only major political party in the developed world that denies climate change, and it treats voters like they’re children.”

Ashland City Councilor Tonya Graham, executive director of Geos Institute, told the bandshell audience that we’ve known the devastations of greenhouse gases for 150 years and the situation is “simple, serious and solvable. It’s an enormous challenge, and we don’t have a lot of time. The most important antidote to despair is action.”

Andy Atkinson / Ashland Tidings Students speak at the downtown plaza Friday protesting climate change.
Andy Atkinson / Ashland Tidings Students walked out of school and to the downtown plaza Friday protesting climate change.
Andy Atkinson / Ashland Tidings Students gathered on the downtown plaza Friday protesting climate change.
Andy Atkinson / Ashland Tidings Students speak at the downtown plaza Friday protesting climate change.
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