MIDDLEBURY — Students from Middlebury College, and from area middle and high schools, met at College Park by the hundreds to protest the use of fossil fuels.
Holding up posters and Earth Day flags, the crowds marched to promote awareness about climate change, which they claim is due to fossil fuels. The demonstrators also pushed issues relating to open borders, “migrant justice,” and gender and racial equality.
The global strike, inspired by Swedish teen climate activist Greta Thunberg, was coordinated by the Middlebury College student organization Sunday Night Environmental Group. A similar climate strike action took place internationally and in Middlebury in 2015.
The Middlebury portion of the international Climate Strike had various leftist environmental and social-justice groups backing it.
Also known as “Global Week for Future,” the strike was coordinated worldwide by groups such as Earth Guardians, Earth Uprising, Extinction Rebellion Youth, Fridays for Future USA, Future Coalition, International Indigenous Youth Council, Sunrise, U.S. Youth Climate Strike, and Zero Hour.
In Vermont, activist Bill McKibben’s New York-based 350.org was behind much of the organizing.
Chanting “We are unstoppable, another world is possible,” Cora Miller, of Middlebury College’s Sunday Night Environmental Group, led the strikers assembled in College Park. The Sunday Night Environmental Group promotes climate justice on the campus of the “little Ivy League” liberal arts college. It was instrumental in organizing the local strike.
“Today is the coalescence of a year’s worth of student walk-outs and student strikes for climate justice,” Miller said. “We’re standing in solidarity here with students and workers around the world. … But any effort of climate justice must stand for decolonization, prioritizing racial justice, native resistance, liberty and self-determination. We’re standing here on stolen Abenaki ground. Let’s hold a moment of silence. We demand an end to fossil fuels.”
She added her belief that “Exxon knew about climate change in the 1980s and hid it from us.”
Zoe Grotsky of the Sunday Night Environmental Group thanked the local strikers.
“I am in awe of the young people that showed up today,” she said. “I stand in solidarity … demanding that business as usual must come to a halt. We refuse to comply with a system that relies on exploitation, oppression and extraction (of natural resources).”
Grotsky added that “not taking action in a system that relies on white supremacy is an act of white supremacy itself. … Fighting for climate justice means fighting for migrant, racial and economic justice.”
Middlebury College sociology professor Jamie McCallum was invited to address the protesters about strikes, labor and the environmental movement.
McCallum, author of “Global Unions, Local Power,” teaches courses on political sociology, labor and globalization.
“I love that the language of strikes is being used here today,” McCallum said. “Strikes have always been a way to win a better world. Strikes have given us the weekend, strikes have given us health and safety laws, strikes have given us better supplies of better teachers in public schools, helped pave to way to a multi-racial, multi-gender middle class…; strikes have toppled governments, and ended brutality like apartheid. To reverse climate change we’re going to need a lot of strikes.”
McCallum urged for the climate justice movement to “align itself with the labor movement” and urge radical action.
“We need real democratic, radical change in America,” he said. “If that means canceling class, we’ll do that; if it means blockading the ICE facility, we’ll do that. There’s nothing that’s more ‘liberal arts’ than professors, students and community members being hauled off to jail together after such an action.”
Vivian Ross, a student at Middlebury Union High School, skipped class to be a part of the strike. She spoke to the strikers about why she was there.
“I want to live in a world where my grandchildren can look back at climate change and say, ‘Wow that was a close one.’ But with the way things look right now, that’s not going to happen. I am missing several classes to be here and having to make up school work is a b—. … Climate change is even more important than that. Business as usual is tearing this planet in pieces.”
Middlebury College Professor of Environmental Studies Rebecca Kneale Gould stirred the gathering by teaching a song of solidarity — in Hebrew, titled “My Strength.”
“This song will help you keep in tune and balance with the song of the universe. It starts low and goes high. It’s about protest singing, not choral singing,” she said.
After singing aloud Kneale Gould’s protest song, strikers had a moment of silence.
An unidentified Middlebury College student then jumped up and shouted, “This is what a movement looks like. … This is just the beginning. Let’s make some noise.”
Lou Varricchio is a freelance reporter for True North Reports. Send him news tips at firstname.lastname@example.org.