Pay attention to the voices of young people on climate change

In the wake of demonstrations around the globe to create a broad awareness of climate change and the action that must be taken to stem it, it was encouraging to see the students at Housatonic Valley Regional High School come out and be counted on Sept. 27 (see the front page article by Shane Stampfle last week.) There’s no reason to believe, of course, that students at rural schools would be disengaged from the important issues of our time, as they have the same opportunities to follow local, national and international news as those who live in urban areas. Surely their teachers and often their parents have encouraged them over the course of their young lives to be aware of their civic responsibilities as citizens of a democratic nation. This kind of demonstration proves that.

But for young people who are growing up in the country, the effects of climate change can be very personal and direct for them and the older generations in their families, as they are often more connected to nature and watch the changes over the seasons and years that result from a warming planet. Those who have a connection to the land, or who raise animals, know that the seasons have shown the effects of climate change over recent years. And those who are part of the agricultural education programs at HVRHS are certainly part of that group, as often are their parents and grandparents. 

Kudos to the HVRHS students who protested the lack of significant action on the part of the adults in charge, especially those in leadership positions at the national level of government in Washington, D.C. Will there be any response to the strong warnings from young people across the planet on the dire consequences science has predicted if climate change is ignored? That will be hard to measure. At least their voices have been heard and documented, and as time goes on and elections happen, it could give real hope that more skeptics will think about what their children are trying to tell them and vote for candidates who do not deny what science has shown about the dangers of continuing to put profit ahead of being responsible stewards and protectors of our ecosystems.