Rochester schools unite to demand climate reform

William Fox

Associate Staff Writer

Building off the massive worldwide mobilization of protesters seen during the Global Climate Strikes earlier this year, several youth climate activism organizations from throughout western New York—including our very own BHS Climate Club—gathered at the Twelve Corners Gazebo this December 6th.
They were there for one reason: to motivate government action to fight climate change. The event was supported by the New York Youth Climate Leaders, a recently founded coalition of young activists from cross New York State dedicated to fighting climate change. The rally also coincided with the beginning of the 2019 UN Climate Change Conference in Madrid, Spain, where leaders from throughout the world discussed potential solutions for two weeks.
The long list of climate activism clubs in attendance included the Rochester Youth Climate Leaders, Brighton High School Climate Club, New York Youth Climate Leaders, Webster Thomas Earth Club, Rochester Earth Guardians, Honeoye Falls-Lima Green Team, School of the Arts Green Crew, and the McQuaid Climate Club. However, the event was opened to any citizen that may have been concerned about the issue, regardless of age. Students from various schools, concerned citizens from the community, and members of our faculty gathered in Twelve Corners for the protest.
The protesters marched around the perimeter of gazebo to the tune of Brighton Climate Club leader Hridesh Singh’s fiery chanting while braving the freezing temperatures. Other climate club leaders from numerous schools, such as Liam Smith of the Brighton Climate Club and Celia Darling of the Webster Thomas Earth Club also spoke at the rally.
The rally primarily focused on their “three asks,” or requests for climate action: the school ask, for the school to adopt a sustainability plan; the district ask, for the district to adopt a climate action plan; and the county ask, for the county to do the same. Smith is particularly concerned because of the “effects climate change will wreak on my future and the future of my generation…I participated in the rally to show my support for concrete solutions to the climate emergency.”
Their calls to action may be ambitious, but Darling has high hopes for the fruits of the groups’ labor due to the number of Democrats on the County Board. “I’m very confident about our county ask, which is the Climate Action Plan Advisory Board,” Darling remarked. “The Rochester Youth Climate Leaders have been going since May to talk about it and propose it, and I believe that it’s going to be voted on either January or February.”
Organizing a rally for so many was not easy, however. “We had a group of about 15 students that were on the WhatsApp chat planning, and we had a few zoom calls where we would talk about it and plan,” Darling adds. “That was a really awesome process because it was completely youth-led. Additionally, having about 100 people out here…protesting is really fantastic because we have our three main asks, and to see this many people wanting to support those asks is really important.”
Towards the protest’s end, Singh made one final request of the assembled protesters: call Governor Cuomo right then and there to demand better climate action and policies.
But despite all of this, climate leaders know they still have a lot of work to do. “I’m not sure that one event on its own will have a tangible effect on climate policy,” Smith resigns. He still does, nevertheless, point out that the rally was an important step, commenting that, “it was important to voice our concerns, but it is also important that we continue to strike. The more politicians hear from us, the more likely it is that they will address climate change.”