A global message: Silverton takes part in world-wide ‘Climate Strike’

October 2019 Posted in Community, Your Health

Activists singing at Silverton’s Climate Strike. Melissa Wagoner

By Melissa Wagoner

An estimated 200 activists gathered in Silverton’s Town Square Park on Friday, Sept. 20 for what they hope will be the first of many Climate Strike Protests.

“This is a global event, with strikes occurring in Salem, Corvallis, Eugene, and many other towns throughout Oregon and throughout the world,” 43 year-old mother of two Elyce Brown said prior to the event.

“This is an open discussion and we welcome all voices to the table that are contributing to a solution and moving us towards a sustainable future. Regardless of what anyone thinks about climate change, we’re all smart enough to know that the world has finite resources and we are burning through them way too fast. We are stealing from future generations; it isn’t fair. We know it, and we know it’s up to us to stop it.”

The movement on Sept. 20 – which was a global phenomenon, with millions taking to the streets in Europe, Asia and across the US – was inspired by Swedish environmental activist, 16-year-old Greta Thunberg.

“[A]fter recovering from a year of depression that her future was being stolen from her and nobody was acting, [Thunberg] decided to strike from school,” Brown described. “She asked; why should I study for a future that won’t be there? She inspired millions of students around the world.”

The inspiration and support of students was heard time and again throughout the Climate Strike event.

“In 1970 I was there at the first Earth Day,” Simon, a former Silvertonian, recalled in his speech. “That first day the teachers led their children out of the classrooms. And they’re doing it again. Power to the people, especially the young ones.”

Others joined Simon, taking up the mic for off-the-cuff addresses.

“I think what I see that concerns me is that 65 to 75 percent agree that there is global warming but how many have done anything?” Paul, who moved to Silverton four years ago, asked. “Now would be a great time to do something. Or, if you have done something, now would be a great time to do more.”

Reaching out to citizens who do not believe in climate change was a thread that ran through the entire Climate Strike event – on posters, in speeches and on the minds of those who attended.

“We believe in climate change,” Deborah Crough, a former science teacher said when asked why she was at the event. “We believe in the science. The concept’s been around long enough. I first learned about the science behind it in 1987 at Berkeley. When there’s bona fide, peer-reviewed science it just boggles my mind.”

“I would just like the non-believers to get on board,” fellow protester Debby Crews finished, adding in a hopeful tone. “But I think it might take hold because the young people are involved.”

Those young people were in attendance, voicing – if not anger, then at least deep-seated concern.

“Global warming is a huge problem,” 12 year-old, Jack White said. “And the people in charge don’t care about future generations and their problems.”

His younger sister, nine year-old Helena, agreed adding, “Older generations think other people will fix it.”

But attendees of the Climate Strike weren’t entirely focused on the negative. Many speakers voiced hope and even pride in the steps being taken within Silverton to address climate change issues.

“I’ve been here three years and I think it’s an amazing small town,” Karen Garst a member of Sustainable Silverton and one of the principle organizers of the event said.

Sustainable Silverton is a group providing resources related to sustainability and host of the Climate Strike. It recently submitted an energy plan to the Silverton City Council for approval. It can be viewed in its entirety at www.sustainablesilverton.org.

“There is now an effort within the city,” Charles Baldwin, also a member of Sustainable Silverton, said of the plan’s approval. “Now it is up to you and I, citizens of Silverton. And I’m hopeful that all of you will join us in this effort.”

Garst added, “We’re just really pleased with what the city did. They’ve just been incredibly supportive. I’m just really impressed.”

But, although action is being taken within the city – a recent ban on plastic bags and the ratification of a Neighborhood Association plan among them – Silvertonians still have a long way to go according to student speaker.

Orion said, “Today marks a day where we put our foot down. It is time that we, as a community, are not going to support our children learning that climate change is a myth. It is your responsibility to go out and be responsible consumers, to avoid plastics and only get what you need.”

Fellow student speaker Dakota echoed these sentiments, adding, “The biggest part that I can draw from this rally is, little by little, we’re making this world a better place. That’s what we need to do.

“Climate change is big but it’s something that is not going to stop unless we act. Education is our biggest weapon. Educate yourself, educate others and keep doing this.”

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