MTPR

Missoula Students To Join National Youth Climate Strike

Mar 13, 2019

Count Missoula among the cities to be represented in the Youth Climate Strike, which is expected to draw tens of thousands of students outside their classrooms this week in protest of environmental inaction.

Seventeen-year-old Hellgate High School senior Wren Cilimburg has been planning her school’s strike with other members of its environmental club.

Students plan to exit Hellgate after fifth period on Friday, then, signage in tow, chant their way to the Missoula County Courthouse, where they expect to join students from Big Sky and possibly Sentinel high schools.

Their message is simple: those in power must do more to slow climate change.

"I think as young people we want to have a safe and healthy planet in the future and we feel adults haven’t really been doing their job to respect that right," Cilimburg says. "So we want to see policy changes at the local and national levels."

Local students are following the lead of Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old environmental activist who in August 2018 started skipping school on Fridays to protest outside Sweden's parliament.

Thunberg’s activism went viral, now students in more than 90 countries will hold their own climate protests this week.

Wren Cilimburg doesn’t know how many Missoula students will protest Friday, but points out an anti-gun violence rally in the fall drew several hundred.

If Cilimburg has a message for elected officials, it’s to quit politicizing the facts and practical implications of climate change.

"It’s a public health issue and it shouldn’t have this partisan divide tied to it, but it does. And I think that's one of the things I would really like to see change as I grow up."

According to a 2018 report from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, world leaders only have 11 more years to avoid what it says will be disastrous symptoms of global warming, including drought, wildfires and food shortages.

That makes climate change the number one global issue in Cilimburg’s eyes.

"I love skiing and backpacking, and I want to be able to continue doing those things and have my kids be able to do that as well."

Cilimburg says the public should get used to young activists, because they’re going to be the voice of this country for a long time. And that gives her hope for the future.