By Samantha Dietel, Editor in Chief
With cars racing past them on Main Street, a group of local students raised homemade signs to call for change.
Members of SEED, the West Bend High Schools environmental club, participated in the West Bend Climate Strike Friday at the Regner Park Labyrinth. The local event was organized by Great Lakes Earth Institute President Wes Weinhold and Coordinator Peggy Cadigan as part of a global effort to demand swift government action on climate change.
The movement, inspired by teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg, encouraged people around the world to flood the streets in defense of the environment. In West Bend, community members and students used the event to discuss their climate concerns before marching alongside Main Street traffic with signs in hand. People occasionally honked their car horns in support as they passed—including a garbage truck driver.
“Our planet is in crisis and we need to do something about it right now,” said West senior and SEED secretary Jada Williams, who was one of the members present at the local strike. “I’m just doing absolutely anything and everything that I can do to help fight climate change.”
After going through West science teacher Paul DeLain’s AP Environmental Science course last year, Williams realized the effect that humans have on the environment, so she began to change some of her own habits to help make a greater difference. She decided last October to be vegan after spending about a year as a vegetarian. Beyond her diet, she consistently makes an effort to pick up trash and advocate for environmental protection.
Williams believes that all people need to take immediate action to stop climate change because it affects everyone on the planet. She also thinks that there should be a ban on single-use plastics, a shift toward more renewable energy sources and a decrease in animal agriculture.
“We are running out of time and we have to do something right now or it’ll be too late,” Williams said. “I’m just afraid of what will happen to our planet and the human population if we don’t change right now.”
West sophomore and SEED member Reese Widowski was absent from school Friday so that she could attend a climate strike in Milwaukee that morning.
“There was a lot bigger turnout than this, but it’s still good that people are participating even if it’s just a small number,” Widowski said during the West Bend strike, which had under 100 participants. Milwaukee drew a significantly higher turnout, with marchers spanning entire blocks.
Widowski emphasized that because many people do not seem to be truly aware of climate change, those who have been educated on the issue need to take action. She thinks that it is one of the most important topics in the world and therefore should be faced head on.
“I do want to have a future on this planet and if that’s going to be possible, then something needs to be done,” Widowski said.
Other SEED members also worry that many people are unaware of the massive threat posed by climate change. East senior Claire Young had never considered the current effects of climate change until she went through AP Environmental Science last year. When asked if a similar class should be required for all high school students to take prior to graduation, she explained that it may be necessary to make the youth more aware about environmental issues.
“I know a lot of people really only think about their (own) life and how (climate change) will affect them, but I also want to make a change for not only my future, but the future of all the generations after me,” Young said.
While Widowski agrees that making an environmental class required for high school students may be beneficial, Williams says doing so may not be enough. Instead, Williams believes that every class curriculum should include some form of environmental studies.
“Climate change awareness needs to be incorporated into every classroom and basically every aspect of our life, just because it is going to affect every aspect of our lives,” she said.
Because attending the West Bend Climate Strike was not officially a SEED event, DeLain—the club’s adviser—is proud that the students took the initiative to participate and express their concerns. Until receiving an email from East sophomore and SEED member Isabella DeGroot, DeLain had not known that a climate strike would be taking place in West Bend. This prompted discussion about the strike, but the group was unable to make it a SEED event because DeLain could not provide transportation.
DeLain believes that students should care about climate change for the same reasons that every person should.
“Scientific evidence indicates climate change is happening and scientific evidence indicates we’re the reason,” DeLain said. “And there’s a lot of debate about that, but those are times that are wasted and should be spent on solutions instead of debating whether or not it’s happening or whether or not we’re the cause of it. So (students) are concerned because they are going to inherit the earth. It’s their planet.”
Protecting the environment and fighting climate change requires more than just recycling, DeLain says.
“It’s gotta be life choices,” DeLain said. “Sacrifices. Willing to do with a little less. Willing to work with other like-minded individuals to improve business practices, lifestyle choices, the products we consume so that every one of them has stability in mind as much as we’re able. We know this: The Earth is struggling to provide for seven billion people. So if we want to live here, we’re going to have to find alternative ways of being and the willingness to do that.”
(Top image: West sophomore Lexi Williams carries her homemade sign which features a quote by teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg. Photo by Veda Selin, Current Staff. Video: West sophomore Reese Widowski discusses SEED, the WBHS environmental club, as part of the Sept. 20 worldwide Climate Strike. Video taken by Samantha Dietel, Editor in Chief.)