Environmental Crisis: Montgomery’s County Youth Rises to Responsibility

Soncheree McCampbell, Features Editor

On September 20th, thousands of protests were held internationally in support of environmental justice, protection of indigenous land and biodiversity, sustainable agriculture, and the ratification of the Green New Deal, a congressional plan to take on climate change.
According to The Washington Post, millions were involved in the protest, where students walked out or skipped school entirely to participate. According to Global Climate Strike, it simultaneously occurred across the globe in 185 countries with 7.6 million people involved, making the event the “biggest climate mobilization in history.”
Awareness about climate change and its impact on not only our current society but, perhaps more importantly, the future, is at an all-time high as it’s been plastered all over the news and social media for the past few years, especially over the past few months. Tweets about the Amazon fires have been retweeted, Instagram posts of water pollution have been reshared, and even Tumblr blogs concerning deforestation have been re-blogged. Such publicity regarding the environment’s poor state has enlightened people and emboldened them to seek change and take action by initiating climate change protests around the world.
At a recent local protest, James Hubert Blake High School student leader Ella Jacobs commented on the importance of youth participating in environmentally-oriented protests. Jacobs exclaimed that the world’s condition is a crisis, stating that “if [the world] continues with business as usual, it will be a death sentence” and that “if we don’t drastically reduce our carbon emissions to prevent warming [of the Earth] over 2 degrees Celsius, then we will be unable to reverse a climate and ecological catastrophe.”
Jacobs is not the only youth activist that voices this belief, her comments are similar to those of well-known Swedish youth activist Greta Thunberg, who has also stressed the urgency of raising our voices about climate change. In fact, in her speech “How Dare You” at the Climate Change Summit 2019, Thunberg accused older generations of being the cause of environmental calamities, emphasizing that big corporations and other institutions in power are “failing us” and forcing the youth to step up and make the necessary changes.
Montgomery County is fairly close to Washington, DC, making those who are passionate about climate change feel some responsibility to be politically loud. Not every student can travel from New York to be part of DC protests, but students that live within forty minutes from the US Capitol can. We are in a time where gridlock is prevalent in the government and the governments’ actions falsely mirror the youth desires. To many, this means that it is necessary to make our voices heard.
Even though students in Montgomery County are well aware of their political activism’s importance and want to be part of upcoming protests, what holds some back from participating is the fear of an unexcused absence. In Montgomery County, having an unexcused absence is definitely a stressor for students, especially when missed work cannot be made up. Imagine taking part in a protest, only to come back to school with an unfixable zero for an assignment. Student Member of the Board Nate Tinbite acknowledges this setback, lobbying in favor of excused absences for protest participations.
He hopes to “continue the efforts brought up by our last SMOB for changes to Policy KEA (to allow 3 excused absences for civic and political engagement).” His vision is to “allow students to be politically engaged – if they choose to do so.”
It is more important now than ever for youth to be involved in the resistance of the government. The next climate change protest takes place in Washington DC, Friday, November 29th. As Montgomery County youth, it is on us to initiate change in the government. We must show up!