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Terry Cowgill
Students from Berkshire School and other area schools marched, as part of the national Youth Climate Strike, to Great Barrington Town Hall Friday to protest the lack of action against climate change.

South County high school students rail against inaction during ‘youth climate strike’

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By Friday, May 3, 2019 News 10

Great Barrington — The chants could be heard up and down Main Street. And the enthusiasm was infectious.

A crowd of high school students turned out in downtown Great Barrington Friday morning to participate in the nationwide Youth Climate Strike. Most were from Berkshire School in Sheffield, with a smattering from Monument Mountain Regional High School and Bard College at Simon’s Rock.

They met at Railroad Street Youth Project down on Bridge Street and marched from River Street to Church Street to Main Street, finally landing at Town Hall, where they registered their disapproval of the current state of climate change policy.

See video below of local high school students participating in the nationwide Youth Climate Strike in front of Great Barrington Town Hall:

“No more coal, no more oil, keep the carbon in the soil!”, they chanted in front of the symbol of government in southern Berkshire County. And if there was any doubt about their motives, they quickly added: “Show me what democracy looks like. This is what democracy looks like!”

One of the organizers was Devon Thompson, a Berkshire School senior from Wilton, Connecticut, and a prefect, or student leader, at the school. Another was Peter Dunbar, a senior from Newport, Rhode Island, and head prefect at Berkshire.

Berkshire School senior Peter Dunbar leads fellow protesters in a chant in front of Town Hall in Great Barrington at Friday’s Youth Climate Strike. At far left is Berkshire School senior Devon Thompson. Photo: Terry Cowgill

“Peter and I are leaders of the environmental action club and my whole family has been passionate about climate change as long as I can possibly remember,” Thompson said in a brief interview.

Thompson added that she’s frustrated by the lack of action on climate change by leaders in Washington. For the last couple of summers, she and her family have visited glaciers and watched them recede. She described the experience as “devastating” and is convinced that her generation will inherit a disaster made worse by a lack of action and will.

“It is so unfair that it’s going to be us who will have to pick up the pieces,” Thompson said. “We will have nothing. I potentially won’t be able to have kids who can live in a clean and healthy Earth, which is crazy.”

Thompson said she will continue her interest in fighting climate change by studying environmental science this fall at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York.

For his part, Dunbar echoed Thompson’s frustration at the lack of action against climate change by elected leaders, especially in Washington.

See video of an Edge interview with Peter Dunbar by Terry Cowgill. Dunbar is a senior at Berkshire School participating in the Youth Climate Strike:

“I just don’t think that enough legislation is being passed,” Dunbar said as he took a break from leading environmental chants. “I think that is an issue that we can clearly see has repercussions that are becoming permanent.”

Dunbar also invoked the theme of environmental justice, a social movement that is centered around the fair distribution of both environmental benefits and burdens.

“I don’t think that is fair that the people who are most affected by this issue are also the people that are … contributing to it the least .. and it is us in the privileged western world that are contributing all this waste.”

Students from Berkshire School, Simon’s Rock and Monument Mountain Regional High School demonstrate in front of Great Barrington Town Hall May 3 as part of the nationwide Youth Climate Strike. Photo: Terry Cowgill

Dunbar estimated the number of demonstrators in Great Barrington at between 25 and 30 and called his group “a small partner in a nationwide strike.”

Dunbar will take his interest in the environment this fall to Bates College in Lewiston, Maine, though, at this point, he is unsure whether he will study environmental science specifically:

“I don’t really know what I want to do with my life, but I know I would like to do something involving climate, climate action, maybe environmental policy. But I definitely see myself as continuing to do this.”

The South County strike was but one that included thousands of students in Massachusetts and hundreds of thousands across the country who skipped school in order to participate, according to a news release from the Massachusetts Youth Climate Strike.

The release quoted a recent statement from United Nations General Assembly President María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés of Ecuador that there were “only 11 years left to prevent irreversible damage from climate change.”

Among the Massachusetts Youth Climate Strike’s demands:

  • Enact radical legislation to combat climate change on local and state levels in Massachusetts;
  • Adopt the Green New Deal to shift the country to 100 percent clean, renewable, and net-zero emission energy sources through a fair and just transition for all communities and workers; and
  • Declare the climate crisis a national emergency — “because that’s what it is.”

Dunbar concurred with Thompson about the generational burden and added that, “If we don’t act now, my generation and many more generations to come are going to be left with some serious problems.”

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10 Comments   Add Comment

  1. W.C. says:

    Very Cute, go back to the classrooms your parents are paying for.

  2. Brian Tobin says:

    Youth are the future and they want a world they can raise the next generation in. You are the past. I understand why you don’t care.

  3. Susan P Bachelder says:

    I do not understand. I do know that W.C. must have learned his manners from the White House. Rude and childish response to a wonderful civic lesson. When I watch the news of arrogant rulers in Turkey, the Ukraine, Hungary, and India now trampling on democracy, I raise my hat to these young people and their institutions that allow them to practice their right to free speech. Thanks to all for doing it and keep going…… push us forward. or give some of us a kick in the posterior!

  4. Sean Stephen says:

    Always wondered why the edge allows people to post comments without providing a full name.

    1. Carl Stewart says:

      The answer, Mr. Stephen, is that The Edge simply will not follow the lead of virtually all responsible media sources, e.g., The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The Albany Times-Union, etc. And The Edge editors have never answered your question despite the fact that you, I, and many others have asked this question.

      “W.C.” wants anonymity because, frankly, he does not have the courage of his convictions. That, actually, is a good thing. Can anyone imagine someone with his extreme negativity and anger issues being proud of his thoughts?

      1. dennis irvine says:

        Mr. Steward;

        Anonymous speech is vital to any democracy. Surely your relative short tenure as a prosccutor taught you to have respect for SCOTUS opinions and the likes of Hamilton, Madison and Jay? The derisive comments you make about other people lacking courage are just the sort of character retaliation that anonymity can sometimes protect dissent from. Here is some more information, taken from the website of the Electronic Frontier Foundation:

        Anonymous communications have an important place in our political and social discourse. The Supreme Court has ruled repeatedly that the right to anonymous free speech is protected by the First Amendment. A frequently cited 1995 Supreme Court ruling in McIntyre v. Ohio Elections Commission reads:

        Anonymity is a shield from the tyranny of the majority. . . . It thus exemplifies the purpose behind the Bill of Rights and of the First Amendment in particular: to protect unpopular individuals from retaliation . . . at the hand of an intolerant society.

        The tradition of anonymous speech is older than the United States. Founders Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay wrote the Federalist Papers under the pseudonym “Publius ” and “the Federal Farmer” spoke up in rebuttal. The US Supreme Court has repeatedly recognized rights to speak anonymously derived from the First Amendment.

        The right to anonymous speech is also protected well beyond the printed page. Thus in 2002 the Supreme Court struck down a law requiring proselytizers to register their true names with the Mayor’s office before going door-to-door.

        These long-standing rights to anonymity and the protections it affords are critically important for the Internet. As the Supreme Court has recognized the Internet offers a new and powerful democratic forum in which anyone can become a “pamphleteer” or “a town crier with a voice that resonates farther than it could from any soapbox.”


  5. Jonathan Hankin says:

    So they can be snarky without being embarrassed!

    1. dennis irvine says:

      A frequently cited 1995 Supreme Court ruling in McIntyre v. Ohio Elections Commission reads:

      Anonymity is a shield from the tyranny of the majority. . . . It thus exemplifies the purpose behind the Bill of Rights and of the First Amendment in particular: to protect unpopular individuals from retaliation . . . at the hand of an intolerant society.

  6. Timothy Eustis says:

    Sadly, as I read this article, and thought much of today’s youth, I wondered how long it would be before the first asshat comment was posted. Thank you W.C. for exceeding my expectations! Well done.

  7. Stephen Cohen says:

    WC? Water Closet?

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