CHS freshman organizes youth climate strike

Published: Sep. 24, 2021 at 4:19 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - A Charlottesville High School freshman organized a climate strike Friday, September 24, to demand City Council act on its climate promises. Dozens joined in on the event on the Downtown Mall.

“Our three demands are centered around transit, recommitting to those goals, and making sure that the school renovation projects are green,” Youth Climate Strike Founder Gudrun Campbell said.

In 2019, City Council committed to a goal of 45% reduction in green house gas emissions by 2030, as well as carbon neutrality by 2050.

“They made these goals, but then they’re not really working towards the goals or doing anything to make sure that the goals get met,” Campbell said.

She says she wants to see changes in transit and construction.

“What really needs to happen is that the city needs to place a real focus on mass transit, and making sure that mass transit is green because in Charlottesville, the city buses really aren’t reliable. They only come once an hour,” Campbell said. “Our demands on transit are things like electrifying the bus fleet, adding covered seating, and lighting to the bus stops.”

Campbell says another issue are construction projects for Charlottesville’s schools.

“Charlottesville city schools are undergoing these really extensive renovations, but so far in the conversations, climate has really been ignored and it’s a real opportunity to address climate at a larger level,” Campbell said.

The city says it is working to reduce emissions.

“What the city is doing is a kind of this twin hybrid of implementing a program, helping to do climate action within its own operational boundaries, but also helping the community to move forward on its pieces,” Charlottesville Climate Protection Program Susan Elliott said.

Elliott says change needs to come from the community.

“About 95% of the community’s greenhouse gas emissions are from the community and completely outside of the direct control of local government,” Elliott said. “So what we end up doing is working with the local nonprofits and community organizations, pulling in different resources, education, engagement-type things to help our community be able to then take those actions that enable them to be better prepared for climate change, but also reduce their emissions.”

In response to Campbell’s demands, Elliott says city transit and schools are looking at ways to get greener.

“There’s no perfect silver bullet. So those are actually two important pieces of the larger part of the puzzle, but I think there’s ongoing conversations on both of those sides,” Elliott said.

Nurse and mother Emily Little says she wants to see more action.

“They promised us a plan, they’ve promised us that there’s going to be action on climate, but it just hasn’t really happened yet and it’s really been slowed by the pandemic, but as we can tell from the pandemic, once you get into an emergency, it just gets harder and the climate crisis is just going to become more and more and more emergent. I really want the city to take this seriously,” Little said.

Campbell hopes that people will go home from the strike and make changes in their own lives to support the climate, including speaking at city meetings.

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