On Friday, Sept. 20, an estimated 4 million people worldwide walked out of classes and off their jobs to demand that governments and corporations take action to limit climate change. Many were students in high school and college. (Portland public schools and many other educational institutions provided excused absences to students who participated in the strike.) Altogether the strike engaged people in 150 nations. It was timed to occur just days before the U.N. Climate Summit met in New York.
Enterprise was among the more than 2000 sites worldwide that hosted a strike. About 30 people gathered at the Wallowa County Courthouse Fountain of Honor to share concerns and ideas, listen to talks about climate change and its effects, and feel solidarity with other protesters and strikers around the globe. Most walked, carpooled, or rode a bike to get there.
Like their fellow, far-flung protesters, they carried signs that called for action on climate issues. They included “We are all in this together”, “Save our planet”, and “Denial is not a policy.”
“I’ve got two kids and I want them to have a future,” said Joseph resident Benjamin Curry. “They are the representatives of the future across the world. My concern is that there’s a potential that climate changes will eventually lead to the collapse of civilation. They may not be able to have a long and fruitful life in a healthy environment.” Curry is also worried about a future where raising crops will be more difficult due to droughts and other adverse and extreme weather. He also pointed out that shifting climates would lead to the migration of people because its no longer sustainable to live in increasingly hot and dry places like the Middle East, Arizona and Mexico. “Things are going to change radically,” he said.
Tia Hatton of Bend, Ore., carried a sign that read, “Denial is not a policy.” At 23, Hatton was among the youngest of the climate strikers. She is also one of the 22 students who are suing the U.S. government over greenhouse gas emissions. “We are running out of time,” she said. “Today we have climate policies that hurt rural communities. But if we work together on solutions, better policies can help rural America.” Hatton noted that support for carbon sequestration and more efficient transportation would be among measures that would help.
Curry read a letter from Sen. Jeff Merkley that expressed concern that Oregonians were beginning to feel the effects of climate chaos. Other participants in the rally expressed concern for ecosystems, and noted that rural communities are on the front lines of climate change. “If you live with an awareness of what we can each do in a positive way, and encourage others to do small things, too, it will make a difference,” Pepper McColgan said.