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Letter to the editor: Iowa City students are striking for their lives, and we should support them

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Students demonstrate at the Iowa City Community School District business office on Friday, April 12, week four of their strike. — via Student Climate Strike Iowa City (@moogysmaszimo) on Twitter

By Miriam Kashia, North Liberty

Four South East Junior High boys, homemade signs in hand, hands a bit shaky, voices soft but determined, showed up for the fourth Friday in a row at the Iowa City Community School District (ICCSD) administration building to demand action from the Iowa City school board and its superintendent and administrators. Standing with them was an entourage comprised of three of their parents, a group of six members of the 100Grannies for a Livable Future and a few other supportive, concerned citizens.

The kids read their declaration “Why We Strike” that included a statement of solidarity with Greta Thunberg, a young Swedish activist who started the global “Student Strike” movement and has been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. They also point to a global movement of over a million students from over 120 countries who are involved in these school strikes. These courageous and determined local students are demanding a comprehensive K-12 age-appropriate curriculum based on the science of climate change and action by school leadership to upgrade their schools with solar energy and other important sustainability programs.

Coincidentally, that same day, the East Dubuque school system announced a solar project projected to save three-quarters of a million dollars over the next 20 years. There is a funding mechanism called a “power purchase agreement” that enables solar to be installed at a low cost to our education system and would save ICCSD a lot of money over the long term. The kids have done their research, writing in their declaration, “over 6,000 schools across the country are powered by solar energy, including schools in Kalona, Crawfordsville, Dubuque Cedar Rapids, Decorah, Burlington, Iowa Falls, and Quad Cities.”

It’s past time for the ICCSD to assume leadership. Because of the recent United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change scientific report, plus a flood of news about climate-caused disasters in Iowa and around the globe, the public is now painfully aware that the remaining time to act is rapidly declining. Where better to move forward aggressively than in the schools where the very futures of the students are seriously at risk?

Two easy things we can do:

1) Urge our legislators to support The Climate Change Education Act (S.477) that was reintroduced in the Senate in February, but has been tabled. This bill declares that the evidence for human-induced climate change is overwhelming and undeniable. It proposes that The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) must establish a Climate Change Education Program to increase the climate literacy of U.S. citizens by broadening the understanding of human-induced climate change, including possible consequences and potential solutions. Among other things, this legislation would:

  • apply the latest scientific and technological discoveries to provide learning opportunities to people of all ages;
  • help people understand and promote implementation of new technologies, programs and incentives related to climate change, climate adaptation and mitigation, and climate resilience; and
  • include a grant program aimed in part at developing and improving educational material and teacher training on the topic of climate change.

Currently, “Only 30 percent of middle school and 45 percent of high school science teachers understand the extent of the scientific consensus on climate change” (according to the NCSE/Penn State survey of climate change educators). This is woefully lacking considering the existential threat that looms upon our planet in the next decade.

2) The kids standing up at the ICCSD deserve to be respected, heard, applauded for their courage in speaking truth to power and taken seriously by the district leadership. And they deserve our support every Friday at 12:15 p.m. at the ICCSD administration building for a half hour or so while they repeat their demands and wait diligently for meaningful, effective and immediate action.

From the bottom of their “Iowa City Youth Climate Strike” statement:

NO MORE EXCUSES. CLIMATE ACTION NOW. OUR FUTURE AS STUDENTS DEPENDS ON IT.


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