Op/Ed

Guest editorial: Speaking up for climate justice

EMMA POPE MCCRIGHT holds a sign at the climate strike demonstration in Boston.

When I woke up on Friday, Sept. 20, I thought about the day, my husband and my two daughters, as I always do. I let the dog out, had some coffee, got ready for work. In the back of my mind I knew that this was the day of the Youth Climate Strike. Both my daughters were going to participate. Maybe I would wander over to College Park in Middlebury and check out the protest there, if work wasn’t too crazy. 
It wasn’t that immediate to me. 
My older daughter texted me from college when she boarded a bus to head to Boston for the march there. My younger daughter, a junior at MUHS, got ready to report on the Middlebury event at the behest of her father, reporter’s notebook in hand. I thought about how proud I was of my girls, and how they want to change the world. 
I did walk over to College Park, I took lots of pictures in case the paper needed some. I saw my younger daughter snapping her own photos and scribbling furiously in her notebook. I chatted with friends and colleagues, listened to speakers, soaked in the energy of all the young people there and of all the adults of all ages who came to support them. 
I felt uplifted. 
And then I felt reflective. Here we are, gathering to speak up for climate justice and to save the planet. All of us in the park agreed. In Vermont protests like these are often preaching to the choir. But what can we do? It’s not enough to gather and support each other anymore. We need to take action. But what action? They have plenty to suggest, from simply using reusable grocery bags to demanding change at the highest level of government 
When I got back to the office I got on my phone to see what kind of coverage events were getting worldwide. Images from Australia, Bangladesh, Poland, Tanzania (where students were led by a marching band), Germany, London, New Delhi, Japan, Vanuatu — hundreds of thousands of people, mostly under the age of 20, taking to the streets. 
That’s when it became immediate. That’s when the tears started. Here were these eloquent, passionate, driven and savvy kids pleading for us adults to help them save their future and this planet. I was elated by their commitment. And I was appalled. Not because of what they have taken on, but because we adults have failed them, “epically” as they might say. 
As a parent, all we want to do is protect our children, to make their lives safe and satisfying and better than ours. On an individual basis we do this to the best of our ability. When they are babies we feed them or change their diapers or hold them and sing when they cry. When they go to school for the first time we walk them or drive them and feel our hearts both soar and break as they take the next step. When they go off to college we feel the same — so proud and so terrified, knowing we have to let them go. 
Often we adults live moment to moment, handling joy and crisis as it happens. Often there isn’t time what with work, health, bills, and just getting through the day, to think about the big picture. Often those of us who do think about the big picture, who go to protests and write letters and try to make this world a better place, get tired. We get demoralized, weighed down by the bleakness of the big picture, so much so that it’s easier to push concerns about the future, particularly ones so huge as climate change, to the back of our minds. 
And this is the failure. Even though we tried and tried and tried. We haven’t done enough despite how hard we have worked on this issue. So much of it has been outside of our collective control. 
Now, “from the mouths of babes,” our children, the youth of the world are calling us out. They’re asking us to care as much and do as much for them as when they were babies, toddlers, young adults. They’ve been forced to do a lot of growing up, and their wisdom is straightforward, no-nonsense and unhindered by political speak, lobbyist agendas, corporate manipulation. 
We can be so proud of the generation that has taken the adult world to task. It says those of us who worked so hard to bring up compassionate, smart and caring kids have succeeded. And now they’re guiding us. Wresting the torch from our hands with new energy and passion. They’re making our hearts soar at their capability and making our hears break that this is something they have to do. 
They’re demanding that we save them and ourselves before it is too late. And they’re right. If ever there was a time to do all we can as parents and as human beings, this is it. 
Sarah Pope is the Addison Independent’s copy editor. 

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