Speakers at Friday rally call for support for ban on using fossil fuels in new buildings
By Debora Gordon for Ashland.news
Several hundred Ashland High School students and other community members participated in the Ashland Youth Climate Walkout and Rally on Friday, March 10, to demand that adults, local elected officials and community leaders join them in taking immediate action to address the climate crisis and announced the launch of the Ashland Youth for Electrification Campaign.
The campaign, organized by the youth-led Rogue Climate Action Team (RCAT), urges Ashland City Council to pass an ordinance that would require all new buildings to be fully electric. It builds on the Ashland Climate and Energy Action Plan, which youth organized to help pass in 2017.
About 10:30 a.m. Friday morning, students left class and walked from the school to downtown Ashland to see and hear a series of youth speakers and performers on the pressing issue of climate change organized by the RCAT, which has been organizing the Ashland Youth Climate Walkout in connection with other global youth-led climate strikes happening in March.
Before the march to the Ashland Plaza, Ashland High School senior Te Maia Wiki explained: “This walkout rally is in connection with the Fridays For Future global walkout that is happening all around the world and so we’re uniting Rogue Valley students and allies and community members to come together to advocate for climate justice in the Rogue Valley. I’m walking out because I am an Indigenous person who feels connected to the land and I’m intrinsically a part of this earth and as youth we are disproportionally impacted by the climate crisis and so we’re really coming together and walking out to demand that leaders take effective action and we’ll also be announcing our new campaign that we’re launching with Rogue Climate’s Action Team.”
The rally featured about 10 speakers. All noted the focus of the youth climate walkout was the health and well-being of the community; all repeated their concerns that youth are disproportionally impacted by climate change, and said their objective is to advocate for youth, low-income households and marginalized communities
Speakers pointed out that young people have grown up with the impacts from the climate crisis, as their ongoing lived experience; repeatedly noting its traumatic impact on children to go through and also that people in the Rogue Valley were heavily impacted during the Labor Day 2020 fires, including the Almeda Fire, creating ongoing fear and stress from disasters that are caused by climate impact.
St. Mary High School senior Sophie Dunleavy said she considers the generations that will come after her, with the observation that “When I’m older, I want to have those younger than me to see snow-topped mountains and iced glaciers, I want those younger than me to not be afraid of the world around them due to health concerns.”
She said she feels the stress of climate change, “It’s hard, because there’s a pressure put on us, our generation, to be the next best, to fix everything, to fix climate change, to fix the way our industries work. It’s a lot but I want you to realize that our generation is actually the best fit to fight climate change.”
Later in the presentation, Ashland High School Senior Gabriel Hernandez; co-president of the Ashland High Latin Student Union, shared his concerns, commenting that “I come here to speak to you all with the intent of conveying the growing severity of climate change, the necessity for action and the concern the youth of today have for our future. For decades, society as a collective has ignored and written off climate change as either insignificant or non-existent. As these years pass, we read studies confirming with irrefutable evidence that climate change is a horrifyingly real and ever-growing threat to our existence.
“We watch as our water, our air, our forests, and our homes are polluted and destroyed by the effects of climate change. Our policy-making system is contaminated with greed It has become far too easy for corporations to force policy agendas that prioritize profit over the interests of the broader population. Fossil fuel companies desperately cling to their wealth with little regard for the planet or the future of those who call it their home. As this is happening, we continue to see young voices ignored and patronized across the globe when it comes to major issues. Many of us have waited too long. Today, I implore you to stand with the students you see in this crowd and to take action. Join local campaigns. Bug the heck out of your policy makers and get involved. Because, if we are to save our planet, and our future, it is going to take every last one of us.”
The rally ended with the repeated chant: “Our future! Get off it! this planet’s not for profit!”
Members from RCAT plan to give public comment at the Ashland City Council Meeting at 6 p.m. March 21. Youth leaders are calling on people in Ashland to get involved in the campaign by signing a petition.
Ashland City Councilor Gina DuQuenne, who attended the event, said she was pleased with the march and the turnout. “My first thought was pride,” she said. “It was a sense of just kind of passing the torch, because every generation has had their protest to bear, and gatherings and marches; this gave me pride and joy.”
In response to the plan to bring the resolution to the City Council, she said, “I am in 100% agreement, except it must be affordable. Yes, it may take one or two extra steps, but when it comes to climate change, the marginalized people are affected the most. Can we do it? Yes — and we can do it right.”
Debora Gordon is a writer, artist, educator and non-violence activist who recently moved to Ashland from Oakland, California. Executive Editor Bert Etling contributed to this report. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or call or text him at 541-631-1313.
9 p.m. March 10 update: Comment added from Ashland City Councilor Gina DuQuenne.