CHESTER, Vt. – A crowd of approximately 70 area citizens, including approximately a dozen Green Mountain Union High School students, gathered at the Chester green Friday, Sept. 20 at noon as part of the international Youth Climate Strike.
Inspired by 16-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, young people around the world have organized to skip school and protest in their communities over the climate crisis. The gathering was part of a far-reaching global event with over 2,500 events scheduled in over 150 countries, ahead of the U.N. Climate Summit, which started Monday, Sept. 23.
The Chester event was organized by Mountain Valley Climate Action 350Vermont, a local chapter that is part of the larger 350Vermont organization. Local citizens Melody Reed and Cheryl Joy Lipton, leaders of the MVCA, coordinated speakers, musicians, sign-making and artwork, all to support the two-hour event. Reed also coordinated the church bells to ring not only in Chester but around New England to kick off the event. According to Reed, her three children and three grandchildren have been her motivation.
Students and activists applauded and cheered for speakers, sang songs and waved banners and signs to passing cars and trucks throughout the two-hour event.
Lipton was the first speaker who outlined the significance of being part of a larger global youth strike, encompassing millions of people. She called for residents do their part to “support, vote for, and live in line with policies that transition to a clean and renewable economy…”
Vermont State Representative Sarah Copeland-Hanzas, co-chair of the Climate Solutions Caucus, was the featured speaker. The Caucus includes 80 Vermont House and Senate members “who are passionate about transitioning away from fossil fuels” and who have continued to meet since the Legislature wrapped up in May. On Friday, members of the Caucus coordinated their efforts and spread out throughout the state to participate in events happening around Vermont, including larger events in Montpelier, Burlington, and Brattleboro.
As she spoke, Copeland-Hanzas challenged the audience to ask Gov. Phil Scott three things. If he meant it when he said Vermont would meet Paris Accord on Climate Change goals; which of the 52 recommendations from his Climate Action Commission would he implement?; and what would he propose in the upcoming budget to continue work from last year on winterization and Electric Vehicle adoption? She also challenged the group to support the people and policies that would work for Climate Change legislation. In January, the Vermont Legislature would submit a Global Warming Solutions Act, which includes aspirational targets for greenhouse gas emission reduction; reaffirm commitment to Paris Accord goals in 2025; and works towards net zero emissions by 2050.
At 2 p.m., the remaining group of about 20 walked from the green to the gazebo in the front of Chester Town Hall for a final presentation to end the rally.