Saratoga Students For Klimatet group channels Greta Thunberg
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.”
Left to Right: Lucia Cucinella, Mira DeGregory, Ciara Meyer, Lily Rosan, and Lillian Mae Olsen of Saratoga Students For Klimatet.
Swedish student and climate activist Greta Thunberg called her movement “School strike for the climate,” or Skolstrejk for Klimatet in her native Swedish language.
Saratoga Students For Klimatet March held at Congress Park in Saratoga Springs to mobize response to climate change.