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Students from Vt. towns join global movement to protest climate change

  • Woodstock Union High School students march from the school to the town green in Woodstock, Vt., on March 15, 2019, as part of a national climate strike inspired by Fridays for Future. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • After marching to the town green with classmates, Woodstock Union High School senior Toby Borzekowski waits for the climate change rally to begin in Woodstock, Vt., on March 15, 2019. Borzekowski said he has participated in other rallies, including the Vermont Youth Rally for the Planet in Montpelier and March for Our Lives in Washington last Spring. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Woodstock Union High School 11th-grader Erica Kurash speaks at a climate change rally she helped to organize in Woodstock, Vt., on March 15, 2019. An estimated 75 students marched from the school to the town green to speak about sustainability within their community. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Woodstock Union High School 10th-grader Madelyn Trimpi wipes a tear from her eye after telling her classmates how proud she was of their decision to leave school to speak out about climate change in Woodstock, Vt., on March 15, 2019. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.



Valley News Staff Writer
Friday, March 15, 2019

WOODSTOCK — As a police car flashing overhead blue lights led the way at a crawl, student protesters came marching down the hill off Prospect Street to the village green, holding a banner in front proclaiming “Change the World Kids,” beating a drum and chanting “Hey, hey, ho, ho, global warming has got to go.”

A chocolate lab wagging its tail pulled up the rear.

Several dozen students — with parents’ permission — skipped class on Friday morning and walked nearly 2 miles from Woodstock Union High School to the green.

The Woodstock students were joined by their cohorts at Vermont high schools in Windsor, Montpelier and Burlington as part of Youth Climate Strike, a global walkout among high school students to demand action on climate change. Nationally, students staged the event in support of the Green New Deal, an economic and environmental agenda backed by progressives in Congress.

Organizers have issued a list of 22 demands, including switching 100 percent to renewable sources of power by 2030 and declaring climate change a national emergency.

The walkouts were inspired by Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg, whose “Fridays for Future” campaign has spread across Europe and to other countries.

Half a world away, in Windsor, co-organizer Virginia Snyder, a 17-year old junior from Weathersfield, reported that students broke away from classes for 90 minutes to walk to the post office, where they mailed letters outlining their environmental concerns to Gov. Phil Scott and Vermont’s Congressional delegation.

“We had over 50 kids marching. We’re a small school, so that’s a pretty good number,” Snyder said.

Meanwhile, in Woodstock, students gathered on the snow-crusted green under a pop-up tent, and TV crews and the town’s cable public access channel unpacked their equipment. Around 75 students were present with more than three dozen adults also there.

Noah Anderson, a 16-year old sophomore with a laminated badge around his neck identifying him as one of the organizers, stepped up on a set of plastic milk crates, microphone in hand and pulled out a sheet of paper on which he had written a speech.

He painted a dystopian picture of the future if too little is done to combat global warming.

“What if I told you in 11 years that effects of climate change will be irreversible?” Anderson asked the assembled crowd. “If that sounds bleak, it’s because it is,” he said, rattling off a list of calamities like malaria, droughts, and world hunger that he said would result from a warming planet.

“Human life will change and not for the better,” Anderson warned. “We are hovering at a tipping point.”

Sophie Leggett, a junior — who called for a moment of silence in respect of the 49 victims killed in a terrorist attack at mosques in New Zealand — explained to the crowd that she was “going to go off topic and talk about chocolate chip cookies.”

She drew a parallel between her love of chocolate chip cookies — “I’ve been eating them my whole life” — and the ill wisdom of overindulging in them with society’s reliance upon on plastics and other pollutants polluting the environment.

And weening society off its dependence on plastics, she suggested, would provide the same benefits as did her decision to eat fewer cookies and switch to healthier treats.

“We are the ones eating the cookies,” Leggett said. “We must hold ourselves accountable to our own behavior.”

But the longest speech was delivered by Erik Dorfman, a lanky junior from Bridgewater with a thick mop of black hair who gesticulated as he denounced the “unlimited accumulation of capital for the 1 percent” and weaved in references to sociologists and philosophers and criticized U.S. foreign policy.

Noting that the pioneering 19th-century environmentalist George Perkins Marsh was born in Woodstock on March 15, Dorfman said, “I bet he is turning in his grave ... because he predicted this reality that we find ourselves in, of a human-induced crisis.”

As he denounced the U.S. bombing of countries in the fight against terrorism and quoted the American early 20th century socialist Eugene V. Debs — with a shout of “right on, Erik!” from a spectator in the crowd — Dorfman echoed the political oratory of another era.

“We must rebel against extinction and do whatever it takes to save Mother Earth,” he said. “I plan on being on the right side of history. Do you?”

John Lippman can be reached at jlippman@ vnews.com.

Correction

During a rally against climat e change in Woodstock on Friday, Woodstock Union High School junior Erik Dorfman said of 19th-century environmentalist George Perkins Marsh, “I bet he is turning in his grave … because he predicted this reality that we find ourselves in, of a human-induced crisis.” Dorfman later said, “We must rebel against extinction and do whatever it takes to save Mother Earth.” Dorfman’s quotations were rendered incorrectly in a story about the rally in Saturday’s Valley News