Nome students go on strike to demand climate action
A group of students held a school strike for climate action on Friday in weather conditions less than ideal for an outdoor demonstration.
To get out of the wind, the students positioned themselves at the Anvil City Square school bus stop and held their signs aloft and waved at passing vehicles. Among the five who were present from the beginning were students from Nome-Beltz High, Anvil City Science Academy and Nome Elementary School. More young people arrived later and sympathetic passersby provisioned the kids with hot cocoa from the coffee shop across the street. At 4 p.m. the students along with adults who’d come to support them performed a march.
“It’s a school strike for climate,” said Lizzy Hahn, 15, one of the organizers. “What that means is we are skipping school, not because we want to stay home, play video games and take a nap, we want to be here to show people of the community and our leaders, people who can make a difference, that we are here in the rain, […], we are here to show that our climate is being harmed and we need to do something to stop that. We need to take measures to prevent that, we need to do something.”
Students around the world have been holding climate strikes partially because of the influence of charismatic Swedish 16-year-old Greta Thunberg, who recently addressed the Climate Action Summit of the United Nations in New York. Thunberg travelled to New York from Sweden in a solar powered sailboat to minimize her carbon footprint.
“You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words,” said Thunberg to the UN delegates. “And yet I’m one of the lucky ones. People are suffering. People are dying. Entire ecosystems are collapsing. We are in the beginning of a mass extinction, and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you! For more than 30 years the science has been crystal clear. How dare you continue to look away and come here saying that you’re doing enough, when the politics and solutions needed are still nowhere in sight.”
Back in Nome Zoe Okleasik, one of the demonstrators, was not so strident but still made her point.
“I think the one thing the adults are missing is that we just learned that we have a voice and we are going to use our voice for things that we deem are important,” said Okleasik. “Such as climate change. Who knows, maybe this may be our first strike but we know we have a voice now and we will use it as much as possible.”
Asked what sort of measures need to be taken, Okleasik replied banning plastic in Nome would be a good place to start. “Another thing is we’re the land of the midnight sun and we should be utilizing that by getting solar panels so we can use a more green energy instead of fossil fuels.”
“I do see climate change,” continued Okleasik. “In the winter our sea ice is getting smaller and smaller. And being right in Nome we can see it with the Bering Sea. Last year our sea ice was only from January to March, which is much different than it usually is. We usually get our sea ice at least in November and it stays until the end of May. Usually the beginning of June is when it leaves.” But this year the ice left in March. “That is concerning to me,” Okleasik said. “We have people that live a subsistence life style. A lot of crabbers lost their pots because the ice went out early. I don’t think anybody was able to crab last year because of how scarce the ice was.”
“So far here we have five protesters,” said Lizzy Hahn. “That’s a small number. But Greta Thunberg started out as one person and now it’s a whole movement.”
At 4 p.m. the group, with several adults who showed up for the march, left Old St. Joe’s with a police escort and walked out onto Bering St. and down to Front Street, where they turned left, marching past city hall. From there they returned to Old St. Joe’s.
Asked the next day how she felt about the strike and demonstration Hahn was upbeat.
“I feel that this was a really good experience and that we will have another climate march here in Nome,” she said. “I’m not sure when, but sometime in the near future.”