Lake Oswego students participate in global climate strike
Students from both Lake Oswego and Lakeridge high schools demanded the attention of their city officials Friday, Dec. 6.
As leaders gathered at the United Nations annual climate conference, youth across the world — including those in Lake Oswego's own backyard — joined a climate strike demanding government officials take action to address the climate crisis. Youth across the nation encouraged governments to support the 2020 Green New Deal, which promotes a 10-year plan to address economic inequality and mobilize society to use 100% renewable and clean energy by 2030.
In conjunction with the Sunrise Movement — a student-led organization aimed at implementing political action against climate change throughout the country — approximately 30 students spent the first half of their day picketing City Hall and participating in a question-and-answer session with Lake Oswego city councilors.
"Our strike is extremely local. We chose to strike with the movement in order to tell our councilors that as the future of this city, we care deeply about creating policy aimed at building a greener future, " said Lakeridge High School senior Ella Feathers. "I think having the opportunity to sit down with my representatives, tell them exactly what I want and exactly how I feel like we are helping to make a difference, I think it just makes us really visible in the community as people who care about things (and) people who have done our research.
"We're not incompentent students, we're students with a lot of passion and so I think that having that visibility is really important."
Lake Oswego students encouraged city councilors to sign the Green New Deal pledge as written by the Sunrise Movement, vote to formally declare a state of climate emergency, prioritize and execute improvements for safe routes to schools, expand partnerships with community groups — particularly youth groups — and work to improve education and outreach materials for proper recycling.
"Throughout the Lake Oswego website there are different mentions of climate change and how we can best avert the impacts of that in our own city, but I haven't seen any formal declaration of a climate emergency, which a lot of cities are doing across the world, so we want our city to be a part of that," said Lakeridge senior Anna-Marie Guenther. "I think today what it means to me personally is that I'm taking a stand against those adults that denounce us taking action and discredit our movement in its totality because we don't abide to a certain lifestyle or something like that, so they discredit our ability as activists … Students are willing to take time out of the stuff that matters most to them, which is school, and stand up for what they believe in."
After a post was made on Nextdoor asking for additional adult chaperones for the climate strike, students said they received nasty comments from community members on the post — though some were supportive and encouraging.
"We got a lot of pushback for being young people trying to get involved, (that) we aren't doing enough, we aren't taking enough action, this isn't going to make a difference," Feathers said.
Another student, junior Cameron Johnston, who made a sign for the protest that read "OK Boomer Climate Strike" said it wasn't meant to target the Boomer generation but rather it was in retaliation to the negative Next Door comments and that "this (the sign) is just going against the old views against this problem."
Meeting with local government officials
Later that morning, students met with Lake Oswego City Councilors John LaMotte, Jackie Manz, Theresa Kohlhoff and Daniel Nguyen at the Lake Oswego Public Library to discuss Lake Oswego's Sustainability and Climate Action Plan, ways to reduce carbon emissions, and if the City had any plans in place to educate residents regarding misinformation about climate change and plans in place to help the city be more sustainable.
Students wondered why the City decided not to move forward with a feasibility study for the Oak Grove-Lake Oswego Bridge, which they thought would help reduce carbon emissions. Students ultimately wanted more safe routes to schools and pathways for people to get around the city safely while removing cars from the road.
Students also questioned the City Council's timeline with the Climate Action Plan and wondered what sustainability projects were in place.
Nguyen said that while it's good to look at a five-year and ten-year plan, it's also important to start making changes to help the environment now.
He said to look at the "low hanging fruit" like changing all light bulbs in city buildings to LED energy efficient lights and the potential of having three seperate recycling bins to separate metals and glass from other recyclable items. He said by creating a list of items to tackle now, it might help increase the public's motivation to get larger projects accomplished.
LaMotte added that while the City successfully banned plastic bags, the next step might be to work on banning plastic straws.
In 2017, city staff came up with a list of 10 recommendations to increase the city's sustainability efforts and it went before the council in March 2018. But Jenny Slepian, sustainability and management analyst, said that the plan was just approved by the city council to be eventually incorporated into a revised Sustainability and Climate Action Plan and it wasn't a standalone document.
Slepian said staff, consultants and the Sustainability Advisory Board is working on the revised plan that will hopefully be brought before the council in spring 2020.
"There are many polarized views and opinions to reconcile, and it was determined that some of the actions in the 2018 document were not workable," Slepian said. "Climate change is complicated, uncomfortable and inconvenient. Developing a plan, while helping staff and others to understand that preparing for and mitigating our contribution to climate change will also be complicated, uncomfortable and inconvenient takes time and needs to fit the challenges Lake Oswego will face in the future."
Students are also working on a cover letter to submit to City staff that will discuss what they'd like to see included in the Climate Action Plan.
"Climate change is the biggest issue that is facing our generation because older generations haven't taken as large of a step to ensure that our world as inheritance is good for us. We have to take our own stance so we're gathering power from the youth and trying to make sure we still have a planet that can sustain us and future generations," said LOHS junior Izzy Rowland. "I know the City is trying to become a better place for business and I just want to make sure there's more regulations to ensure that new businesses and current ones that are here aren't harming the environment."
Johnston felt like the meeting was productive and was glad the councilors now know some student concerns.
LaMotte agreed that it went well and said: "I appreciated the openness. They weren't really nasty and demanding. They're learning and we're learning and so I think it was great."
He added that he hopes students become more involved in City groups like advisory boards and attend more public meetings to gain exposure and voice their opinions and ideas.
"There's things we can do at the municipal level to do our part and we're gonna do it," LaMotte said.
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