Speaking in front of an audience gives 8-year-old Emerson Blizman from Chico, California, “stage fright,” she says. Yet on the evening of March 6, when Emerson and her 10-year-old brother stood up to address the Chico Unified School District, this second-grader felt brave.
“Climate change is a threat to our future,” Emerson told the board members. “I think all school districts should pass rules about how we can all work together to learn about droughts and wildfires.”
Emerson and her brother Brayden, whose school was closed for three weeks during the 2018 Camp Fire — the deadliest, most destructive wildfire in California’s history — will travel to Washington, D.C., on March 28 for a youth and educator climate advocacy day. It’s part of a campaign, not connected to a political party, whose message to Congress is “to act quickly and boldly.”
They’ll join 130 to 150 kids ages 6 to 18 to deliver climate resolutions to the offices of all 535 members of Congress.
“We call on Congress to swiftly end decades of climate neglect by passing common-sense national climate policies, such as carbon-pricing, a 100 percent clean-energy transition plant, and/or green infrastructure investments, to restore the climate for the good of young people and future generations,” the resolution says.
More than 55 school boards (including Fairfax County, Virginia’s), parent-teacher associations, student councils and educational unions from nine states have signed climate resolutions.
Young Voices for the Planet is co-sponsoring the event, which will include a news conference with national climate experts and youth advocates.
“I want to tell our representative that we need to make new rules to stop climate change,” said 10-year-old Brayden, who recalls wearing a face mask during the Camp Fire when he and his family brought sandwiches to neighbors.
Their father, Brandon, has scheduled a meeting with his kids at the office of Doug LaMalfa, the member of the House of Representatives from their home district. At a 2017 packed town hall meeting in Chico, LaMalfa told the crowd that he does not “buy the idea that man-made activity is responsible” for climate change.
This idea of delivering climate-change resolutions to Congress was born the same year as the 2017 Tubbs Fire raged through Northern California. That month, Park Guthrie — a California public school teacher in Sonoma County and father of three children — was on his way with his kids to talk to the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors about climate change. They had to wear face masks, and the experience inspired Guthrie to co-found Schools for Climate Action.
“Climate change is not a partisan issue,” Guthrie says. “It is a generational justice, a social justice and a human rights issue. Congress has failed to act, and by doing so it has put our current and future students at significant risk. We know the harm. . . . No educator or educational institution has to be a silent witness to the generational neglect that national inaction on climate constitutes.”
“Climate change is a threat to my future,” adds Guthrie’s daughter, 12-year-old June, who will travel to Washington with her older brother and sister to urge Congress to support and enact new climate policies.
If you’d like to contact your own local, county or state school boards, S4CA can send you a template email to customize for your area.