Inspired by teenagers around the world, several Mountlake Terrace High School students have taken to the streets, waving signs outside of their school hoping to spread awareness about climate change.
Since the beginning of the 2019-20 school year, the Mountlake Terrace freshmen have been participating in climate strikes protesting inaction against climate change. They also recently became involved with FridaysForFuture. It’s a movement that began in August 2018 after 15-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg sat in front of the Swedish parliament every school day for three weeks, to protest the lack of action on the climate crisis.
Thunberg’s actions have since inspired students around the globe to do the same.
So far, Mountlake Terrace High is the only Edmonds School District school to participate in FridaysForFuture. The idea began in teacher Jonathan Tong’s freshman biology class shortly after the start of the school year. During his classes, Tong began engaging his students in discussions about climate change, talking with them about the latest research or new stories.
“Students realized how serious the problem is and were horrified to learn that our elected representatives weren’t treating the problem with the sense of urgency needed,” Tong said.
Following the classroom discussions, students decided to take action by creating posters and signs and standing for an hour on the sidewalk in front of the school, rain or shine.
Initially, Tong said he considered partnering with Seattle School District students, who have also joined the movement by protesting in front of Seattle City Hall. However, he said traveling each week to Seattle would not be practical and instead he allows students to use his class period to protest on the street and make up class work later.
Now, every Friday, the students take their signs to 44th Avenue West in front of the school to spread their message.
“These youth have realized that they can no longer rely on adults to protect their futures, and that the burden has fallen on them to save the world and save themselves,” he said. “Our hope is that other students from other schools will stand up, speak up and fight back for the futures they deserve.”
According to Tong, the school’s administration has not sanctioned the action, but administrators support the students’ right to protest without punishing them.
Since they began standing on the street, students have received generally positive feedback. Signs have earned honks from passing drivers and some drivers will shout their approval.
However, not all drivers are supportive, Tong said.
“Occasionally people in cars will shake their heads in disapproval, and we’ve had one or two people flip (students) off,” he said. ”But otherwise, no negative repercussions.”
In spite of some criticism, the students continue to occupy the sidewalks on both sides of the street to spread their message and do not plan on stopping anytime soon.
Some students are protesting to spread awareness about the effects of climate change on nature. Sophie Gorman said she joined the protests because she wants to conserve trees and ecosystems for future generations.
“I want to be able to have kids who can experience the same stuff I’m experiencing,” she said.
Other students, like Sam Wood, are concerned about the dangers that human-caused climate change pose to animals and vegetation.
“There are so many animals and plants that are on the verge of, or are going, extinct because of our actions and things that we could stop,” she said.
By participating in the climate strikes, students are hoping to show people their worries about climate change are genuine and that they care what happens to the planet, said Tristan Harmon.
“We’re trying to make it so people know that we care about the world in its current state,” he said.
One thing students said they want people to understand is that their concerns for climate change are not a phase or something that can be ignored.
“People are just going to think this is going to pass on, or it’s a phase and it’s going to end soon,” Harmon said.
For more information about FridaysForFuture, visit the movement’s website.
–Story and photos by Cody Sexton