Letter to the editor: South East Junior High students are striking for the climate

South East Junior High students protest for climate change. — photo courtesy of Massimo Paciotto Biggers and Alex Howe

By Massimo Paciotto Biggers and Alex Howe

At South East Junior High School, we expect excellence. In an age of undeniable and catastrophic climate change, this means we expect excellence in climate action from our teachers and administrators, our district superintendent and the Iowa City school board.

As students at South East Junior High School, we are joining hundreds of thousands of students today in over 100 countries on a strike for climate action. We refuse to go to class.

We agree with Swedish high school student Greta Thunberg, who was nominated for the Nobel Prize for Peace: “We have run out of excuses and we are running out of time.”

According to the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, made up of the top scientists in the world, we only have a decade to cut our carbon emissions in half in order to have a livable future, and we must completely transition to a zero-carbon society by 2050 — in this year, we will be the same age of many of our teachers.

Last year in Iowa, CO2 emissions increased by 3 percent, despite all of our wind energy for electricity.

More than 60 percent of the electricity for our school buildings is generated from coal-fired plants, the largest contributor to CO2 emissions. While some schools have geothermal energy for heating and cooling, only one building in the entire district will have solar panels next year.

Over 6,000 schools across the country are powered by clean solar energy, including schools in nearby Kalona, Crawsfordsville, Dubuque, Cedar Rapids, Decorah, Burlington, Iowa Falls, the Quad Cities and many others.

We demand that the Iowa City school board lead on clean energy and climate change and ask solar companies to make bids for special plans for solar on our schools, such as third-party power purchase agreements, which would cost very little, save the district money from electricity costs and allow us to use the solar technology for science courses.

We call on our teachers and administrators to make climate action a daily part of our school, in all of our courses, in our activities and in the daily operations of the school, from the carbon footprint of our buildings to our buses and our food services.

No more excuses. Climate action now. Our future as students depends on it.

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