Alaska High School Students Join Youth Climate Strike

High school students from Anchorage and the Valley skipped the end of their school day on Friday, not to enjoy the weather but to fight for their futures.

Rallies took place around the world on Friday as part of the Fridays for Future movement and the Youth Climate Strike. The international movements aim to prevent the worst effects of climate change, demand government officials and lawmakers get involved and preserve the future of youth for many years to come.

"As the word gets out, the youth are really mobilizing because they really want the adults to invest in their future," program coordinator for Alaska Youth for Environmental Action Margi Dashevsky said. "So they are here fighting for a future in which they can thrive."

Alaskan youth took a stand when it comes to defending climate change and taking action. Word of the event was announced using social media. "This just really proves how many people care and want lawmakers to start acknowledging that climate change is real," Austin said.

Cassidy worked with foreign exchange student and West High senior Maxim Unruh to push the project forward. "We worked together on it to try to bring this movement to Alaska," West High School junior Cassidy Austin said. "It's never been in Alaska before." Unruh helped with the logistics of the event and got in touch with national coordinators.

"So, it didn't start for me in Alaska. In Germany, I was active with Greenpeace and helped with rallies out there," Unruh said. Unruh said his friends back home actually encouraged him to do something in Alaska.

"I thought, yeah, this is something we should do in Alaska, this is the right place for it," he said. "Just because the effects of the climate crisis are already affecting the rural areas in Alaska." Youth in Anchorage want support for the municipality's Climate Action Plan and are calling on Gov. Mike Dunleavy to reinstate the state's Climate Action Leadership team that he disbanded.

"We really appreciate how much Lisa Murkowski listens to youth voices so we hope she hears loud and clear, today the youth are demanding bold action on a national level to address the impacts of climate change that we are already feeling here in Alaska," Dashevsky said.

Youth are also demanding that 2020 presidential candidates debate environmental policy and that our national leaders support a Green New Deal, halt any and all new fossil fuel infrastructure projects and declare a national emergency on climate change. They also call for implementing an in-state compulsory comprehensive education — from kindergarten to eighth grade — on climate change and its impacts. "No matter your age, race, sexuality," Austin said. "Your voice matters, and if you have something to say speak up and say it because your voice needs to be heard."

Students in Fairbanks, Juneau and Valdez also took part in the climate strike, along with youth in more than 70 countries and over 600 locations.

Originally published May 4, 2019

By KTVA, Scott Gross

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