Following the Youth Climate Strike, students share their opinions on climate change. 

By Callia Peterson, ’22

Instead of marching out of school to protest on Sept. 20 in efforts to fight climate change, most students in UA attended class per usual, unaware that their typical day-to-day routine was different from many high schoolers around the world.

Thousands of Americans protested nationwide, empowered by 16-year-old activist Greta Thunberg, to call upon the United Nations and the U.S. Government to begin making substantial progress in combating the climate crisis. Four million people worldwide left school to strike and demand action to save the planet.

However, the lack of action among UAHS students brought into question their views on climate change.

Environmental Science teacher Jordan Walker said there are multiple reasons why students might not have participated in large numbers.

“I don’t think a strike occurred [in UA] because many students either don’t know about this issue or don’t care. And there’s no judgement whatsoever,” Walker said. “Additionally, the impacts of climate change haven’t been as visible here in UA as they have been in other areas of the world, because we live in a more temperate region where we actually experience the various seasons and more mild temperatures.”

Environmental Science teacher Beth Bailey said the absence of excitement among some Americans had to do with a lack of understanding.

“I think one problem is having the general public understand the science behind it,” she said.

Bailey said it is important for the public to look into scientifically relevant research findings. Some examples of this relevant information are the shift in temperature, consideration of the geological time and change versus what is based upon human influence, humans’ use of fossil fuels, the production of food and its impact on greenhouse gas emissions, as well as other factors that might contribute to climate change.

Senior and Environmental Club co-leader Callie Hundley agreed that not enough Americans understand or believe the science behind this issue. She said this prevented the nation from making positive change.

“Ignorance and denial within our government has prevented the [UnitedStates] as a nation from passing laws which would influence sustainable changes throughout our country,” Hundley said. “The U.S. is one of the countries that contribute the most to greenhouse gases which have a large effect on climate change.”

In contrast, Turning Point club member, sophomore Noah Freud said he and fellow club members are not sure about how fast the issue is escalating.

“I think we can’t predict exactly when it’s going to [get worse],” Freud said. “We just have to know that eventually, it’s going to get to the point that it’s going to be bad, and that we need to solve it. [At Turning Point we] are just not sure about how fast it’s going.

Turning Point is an economically conservative and right-leaning club. Students in this club may identify with libertarian or republican ideologies, and likely have an opinion on climate change that reflects these ideas.

Freud said the club discussed climate change and Greta Thunburg.

“I applaud Greta Thunburg,” Freud said. “That’s sort of an unpopular opinion at Turning Point. It’s one of the things that we discussed there: whether or not she’s credible.”

Walker said it is important to be educating students about the issue and one way to do so is through her Environmental Science classes.

“I definitely think there should be more awareness and education revolving around climate change in our schools in UA,” Walker said. “Currently, I teach Environmental Science with Mrs. Bailey and Ms. Hattman, and climate change is woven throughout our content, in addition to being a primary focus for one of our major units of study.”

She also said the high school’s Environmental Club does a variety of projects to spread awareness about the issue.

Senior Clare Baryluk, another Environmental Club leader, talked about ways students can reduce their carbon footprint such as taking advantage of the iPads and shopping secondhand.

“I think students could take advantage of [limiting our consumption of paper] with the iPads [and] Notability,” Baryluk said. “I think another big thing is clothing. Clothing itself requires a lot of energy and water consumption and materials. I think the more people start shopping secondhand, the more you
can also help with the climate. And it’s cheaper, which is a plus.”

In addition to reducing paper waste with Notability, Walker said intervention specialist Kim Wilson is leading efforts to increase recycling, but that the school should take further steps toward making
recycling more common and effective.

“Mrs. Wilson says her students [are] working to help collect recycling, but they can’t do it alone,” Walker said. “We as a school should really work to develop a more effective way of making sure we recycle things that we can ensure [will] make it to the correct facility.”

Bailey said she thinks students can make a difference by changing the ways they get to school.

“I think a lot of people here still drive their cars, so maybe [we should be] looking at more carpooling,” Bailey said. “Promote days like, ‘ride your bike,’ just to get people thinking about little changes at a time.”

Both Walker and Bailey said they are looking at ways to make the new school more energy efficient as it is built over the next two years as well. An example Walker gave was a green roof, which could help lower heating and cooling costs in addition to opening up the opportunities for students to grow food for the cafeteria.

Baryluk said she hopes students try to make a difference.

“It’s in your hands more than you think. I know a lot of people say, ‘what can I do? It’s just me, this isn’t my problem.’ But I think really the consumer has the power,” Baryluk said. “You have more power than you think.”