CLI­MATE AC­TIVISTS

Saratoga Stu­dents For Kli­matet group chan­nels Greta Thun­berg

The Saratogian (Saratoga, NY) - - FRONT PAGE - By Francine D. Grin­nell fgrin­[email protected]­tu­ry­media.com @d_­grin­nell on Twit­ter

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y.

>> Just prior to their re­cent Saratoga Stu­dents March For Kli­matet, an in-depth in­ter­view with five mem­bers of the lo­cal group, Saratoga Stu­dents for Kli­matet took place in which the group of Saratoga Springs High School stu­dents gave their per­sonal ac­counts of why they wanted to or­ga­nize a march in Saratoga Springs.

The group, named in sol­i­dar­ity with the move­ment started by Swedish stu­dent cli­mate ac­tivist Greta Thun­berg, who called her move­ment “School strike for the cli­mate”, or Skol­strejk for Kli­matet in her na­tive Swedish lan­guage, was a lo­cal re­sponse with Thun­berg’s Amer­i­can peers to the es­ca­lat­ing uncer­tainty that lay­ing ahead, given global cli­mate in­sta­bil­ity.

It is a con­ver­sa­tion that still rages on af­ter at least fifty years of in­cen­di­ary de­bate.

Orig­i­nally, Earth Day was founded by Gay­lord Nel­son, then a U.S. Sen­a­tor from Wisconsin, af­ter wit­ness­ing the rav­ages of the 1969 mas­sive oil spill in Santa Barbara, Cal­i­for­nia. In­spired by the stu­dent anti-war move­ment, Nel­son trans­ferred that en­gage­ment to a grow­ing pub­lic con­scious­ness about air and wa­ter pol­lu­tion, forc­ing force en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion onto the na­tional po­lit­i­cal agenda.

Here Mira De­Gre­gory, Ciara Meyer, Lu­cia Cucinella, Lil­lian Mae Ol

sen, and Lily Rosan share those defin­ing mo­ments that drew them to get in­volved and to change their own at­ti­tudes and habits. The march was or­ga­nized and ex­e­cuted in­de­pen­dently from the school, as a com­mu­nity wide event.

••• I’m here with mem­bers of Saratoga Stu­dents For Kli­matet, a group fo­cused on change for the en­vi­ron­ment and the cul­ture, through­out. They’re here to share their per­sonal take on a dis­cus­sion that has taken place for many years. The mes­sage has not been re­ceived as it should have been, go­ing back, at least in my mem­ory, to the first Earth Day, which was ob­served on April 22, 1970. Now in your gen­er­a­tion, we’ve heard teenage en­vi­ron­men­tal ac­tivist Greta Thun­berg lead a call to ac­tion on the cli­mate cri­sis. We are see­ing graphic im­ages of the im­pact on the en­vi­ron­ment, un­de­ni­ably backed up by the science that so many rely on, when the spec­ta­cle of those con­se­quences man­i­fest on a daily ba­sis be­fore our eyes. What were the defin­ing mo­ments for each one of you that led to your plan­ning the march for cli­mate ac­tion lo­cally?

Mira De­Gre­gory: “Per­son­ally, I kind of reached a break­ing point. There’s a lot of mo­men­tum for a dif­fer­ent move­ment, but Greta’s move­ment, Fri­days For Fu­ture has gained a lot of power with strikes be­ing held glob­ally. I ob­served that and stuff in our gov­ern­ment and ba­si­cally had enough and got the mo­ti­va­tion to talk to these peo­ple in our group to raise aware­ness in our com­mu­nity.”

••• You are all 15 and 16-years-old, and peers to Greta, who is 16 and grow­ing up in Swe­den, so it re­ally is one topic where there is a grow­ing global unity.

Ciara Meyer: “Yeah; this is global, not one per­son.We want to make sure that peo­ple know no mat­ter where they come from, what their sit­u­a­tion is, they can be a part of this mes­sage across the world and to be a small part of that is very spe­cial; we’ve brought it to Saratoga Springs.”

Lu­cia Cucinella: “What re­ally got me into this, specif­i­cally, was my fla­vor of po­lit­i­cal ac­tivism has al­ways been in the ground work, like the phys­i­cal move­ment, a protest or some man­ner of demon­stra­tion. What brought me close to this, specif­i­cally, the first time I was do­ing some­thing big was at­tend­ing the first March For Science in on April 22, 2017 in Wash­ing­ton, D.C.”

••• Let’s re­mind the read­ers what the March For Science was about.

Lu­cia Cucinella: “It was about the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion putting a ban on cer­tain words, the vo­cab­u­lary be­ing used in sci­en­tific re­search. That was the first time I had re­ally got­ten my hands dirty in po­lit­i­cal work like that. So, to be able to come now, all these years later in 2019 and be able to ac­tu­ally lead a group of peo­ple to do­ing some­thing like that and hope­fully in­spir­ing them to get more in­volved in some­thing so phys­i­cal and more di­rect is re­ally what made me at­tracted to this.”

••• Word are im­por­tant; they have power, and they travel out. What words were they dis­cour­ag­ing the use of?

Lu­cia Cucinella: “I was very young; it was years ago. There were sev­eral. I wasn’t as re­searched on pol­i­tics as I am now. I just re­mem­ber the fact that they of­fi­cially and wholly cre­ated this ban on your lan­guage and your speech, what you can say as a fact legally and ac­cord­ing to the gov­ern­ment. That was just enough to get me down to D.C.”

(Re­porter’s Note: Source: Wash­ing­ton Post De­cem­ber 15, 2017: “In 2017, The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion pro­hib­ited of­fi­cials at the na­tion’s top pub­lic health agency from us­ing a list of seven words or phrases — in­clud­ing “fe­tus” and “trans­gen­der” — in of­fi­cial doc­u­ments be­ing pre­pared for the 2018 bud­get.

Pol­icy an­a­lysts at the Cen­ters for Disease Con­trol and Preven­tion in At­lanta were told of the list of for­bid­den words at a meet­ing Thurs­day with se­nior CDC of­fi­cials who over­see the bud­get, ac­cord­ing to an an­a­lyst who took part in the 90-minute brief­ing. The for­bid­den words are “vul­ner­a­ble,” “en­ti­tle­ment,” “di­ver­sity,” “trans­gen­der,” “fe­tus,” “ev­i­dence-based” and “science-based.”)

Lil­lian Olsen: “Our event was very bi-par­ti­san; I’m very proud of our abil­ity to make this as in­clu­sive as pos­si­ble to reach out to as large a de­mo­graphic as pos­si­ble, al­though ob­vi­ously there is one party that was in sup­port of lead­ing the Paris agree­ment.

“My fam­ily is very Re­pub­li­can;

be­ing ex­posed to cer­tain view­points mo­ti­vated me to do my own re­search. Be­ing in a house­hold with such strong views led me to take a very fact based ap­proach to my own views and opin­ions, which led me to dis­cov­er­ing all of these science backed, un­de­ni­able facts about our chang­ing cli­mate.

“Hav­ing been be­ing in­volved in po­lit­i­cal ac­tiv­i­ties be­fore, this was some­thing I could do to en­cour­age peo­ple in the com­mu­nity to speak out.”

••• Right or wrong, it takes courage. It is said that for many peo­ple, the num­ber one fear is pub­lic speak­ing.

Lily Rosan: “I’ve al­ways been very in­ter­ested in pol­i­tics and ac­tivism ever since ele­men­tary school. I re­mem­ber stay­ing up late in kinder­garten with my par­ents to watch the elec­tions.”

••• Which year was that? Lily Rosan: “It was 2008, when Obama was first elected.”

••• That was sur­real, wasn’t it? It was a mo­men­tous day, with­out a doubt, but it had a very staged pre­sen­ta­tion, as if it had been re­hearsed. It didn’t have the re­porte­din-real-time-as-the na­tio­nis-watch­ing feel that pre­vi­ous years had. Ev­ery­thing was red, white and blue. The dec­o­ra­tors had ar­rived.

Group re­ac­tions: “I still re­mem­ber that.”; “I was very young.”; “I was like, three.”

••• Are your fam­i­lies in­ter­ested in pol­i­tics? Group re­sponse: “Not re­ally.”

••• More and more, peo­ple are get­ting vo­cal. Right or wrong, peo­ple are get­ting vo­cal. It’s my job to present both sides, so I guess this is good.

Lily Rosan: “I’m the pres­i­dent of the Young Democrats Club; we’re not af­fil­i­ated with that for this event, but I knew another stu­dent who stu­dent reached out to me a few days be­fore the Septem­ber 20 cli­mate strike this year, ask­ing if we could plan a sim­i­lar event for that date, but there wasn’t enough time.

Mira De­Gre­gory: “I was pre­vi­ously work­ing with one of my friends, con­vers­ing back and forth, be­fore I even knew Lily was plan­ning this. Then I spoke to Lucy (Lu­cia) and she sug­gested speak­ing with Lil­lian, who is a good speaker and had help with the March For Our Lives Event. So I went to a meet­ing and we dis­cussed it and that’s how it merged to­gether.”

Lil­lian Olsen: “Dis­sent is pa­tri­otic. To ex­pect more of your politi­cians and your coun­try so it is the best it can be is not a bad idea. Crit­i­ciz­ing some­thing doesn’t mean you don’t like it; it means you think it can be bet­ter. We be­lieve our coun­try can do bet­ter to curb its car­bon emis­sions, to re­duce pro­duc­tion of sin­gle use plas­tics and on a com­mu­nity level, in­di­vid­u­als can make re­spon­si­ble choices that can bet­ter our neigh­bor­hood.”

Ciara Meyer: “We don’t want it to end at the protest. We want to fol­low up with the changes that can be done by col­lab­o­rat­ing with school and with the City.”

••• In my gen­er­a­tion, the word “protest” con­jured pow­er­ful im­ages that told a story with­out words, the kind of im­ages that still ex­ist as a slide show in my head and that made me a news pho­tog­ra­pher. Yours was a peace­ful protest.

Mira De­Gre­gory: “The po­lice knew we were plan­ning this. We had to worry about counter protests and wanted to keep it safe. We were guided by groups like Sus­tain­able Saratoga, League of Women Vot­ers, Saratoga Unites, Saratoga Pro­gres­sive Ac­tion, to build mo­men­tum, keep it peace­ful and to work with the City.”

Lily Rosan: “Per­sonal re­spon­si­bil­ity and ed­u­ca­tion is an im­por­tant as­pect of cli­mate change-things like life­style changes. The greater harm is the dam­age done by huge cor­po­ra­tions and gov­ern­ments. We can all take shorter show­ers and walk in­stead of driv­ing, but we’re not go­ing to re­verse these changes un­til the politi­cians hold them ac­count­able, and re­duce our use of fos­sil fu­els. The gov­ern­ment needs to do its job. We can’t fix this by our­selves.”

Lu­cia Cucinella: “We wanted the mes­sage to be seen and heard. We want peo­ple to have con­tact with those in power rep­re­sent­ing them.

••• Were you pre­pared for the blow back you might re­ceive for speak­ing out and for en­cour­ag­ing oth­ers to take a stand? Peo­ple may not like you, some may call you names on so­cial me­dia. All present: “Yes.” Lu­cia Cucinella: “There was one mo­ment that made me re­al­ize I’d do any­thing to have a voice. I went down to the first March For Our Lives af­ter the Park­land shoot­ing. We were all high school stu­dents. Every group had at least one chap­er­one.

“We were go­ing to get off the bus when they had us write our name and ad­dress with a Sharpie marker on our arm and it made me ques­tion what that was forwe’re all adults, in groups, with phones. I re­al­ized we were go­ing to D.C. and in the event there was a shooter, a bomb, or some­thing, they needed to be able to iden­tify our bod­ies.

“It was this shock­ing mo­ment of me writ­ing who I was on my arm that made me re­al­ize that I was will­ing to put any­thing on the line af­ter hav­ing a voice. That was re­ally my ev­ery­thing. The most im­por­tant thing I have is the abil­ity to stand up and say some­thing.”

FRANCINE D. GRIN­NELL — MEDIANEWS GROUP

Left to Right: Lu­cia Cucinella, Mira De­Gre­gory, Ciara Meyer, Lily Rosan, and Lil­lian Mae Olsen of Saratoga Stu­dents For Kli­matet.

PHOTO PRO­VIDED

Swedish stu­dent and cli­mate ac­tivist Greta Thun­berg called her move­ment “School strike for the cli­mate,” or Skol­strejk for Kli­matet in her na­tive Swedish lan­guage.

FRANCINE D. GRIN­NELL — MEDIANEWS GROUP

Saratoga Stu­dents For Kli­matet March held at Congress Park in Saratoga Springs to mo­bize re­sponse to cli­mate change.

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