SALT LAKE CITY — Thousands of Utah kids skipped school on Friday to participate in a worldwide strike against climate change. They marched from the Salt Lake City-County Building to the Utah State Capitol, asking lawmakers to take more serious measures to combat the problem.
“Our one demand is that world leaders urgently act in order to keep our planet below two degrees celsius of warming,” said Raquel Juarez, a Fridays for Future activist from Ogden who regularly demonstrates at the Utah State Capitol.
Many of the students skipped class in order to participate in the march. Some had permission from their parents or teachers. Others did not.
“My mom was okay with it,” student Arleigh Sorensen said. “My teachers? I didn’t even think about asking them.”
“One of my friends, his mom said he would be grounded if he came, so he ended up not coming,” student Audrey Brown said.
“Our parents and our elders are not making any change, so we need to make change,” protestor Berlin Jespersen said.
Patrick Perkins took his seven-year-old son Reynold out of school, knowing how important the issue is to him.
Reynold told FOX 13 he wants to be an environmentalist when he grows up because he’s worried about the future.
“I just went to the office and said I was checking him out,” Perkins said. “I didn’t tell them why, but if we explained it to them, maybe they wouldn’t be happy about it. Maybe they would. Either way, I think that this is a great form of education too.”
Throughout the protest, thousands of people emphasized an urgent need to act quickly. They believe change must be made within 11 years, citing a report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that recommends reducing carbon emissions by 45 percent by 2030.
“We are striking today because our representatives have not taken action on climate change when we are already decades late,” said Max Curtis, a University of Utah student. “They endanger all of our futures through their complacency.”
“The government’s not doing anything to fix this, so we’ve got to do it ourselves, and that’s what people are here to do,” Sorensen said.
“I think they’ve been doing a very poor job,” Brown added.
Gov. Gary Herbert was not in Utah during the protest because of a trade mission in Japan, in which he discussed the Utah Advanced Clean Energy Storage project. His office released a statement, pointing out that Herbert has taken a number of steps to address environmental concerns.
“In this year alone, he asked the legislature to put $100 million toward air quality, announced the launch of the Utah Advanced Clean Energy Storage Project, and announced that renewable energy company Enel Green will implement state-of-the-art technology at its plant in Beaver County, making that plant the world’s first large scale facility to combine geothermal and hydropower technology,” the statement read. “We are actively working to be part of the solution.”
The Utah Legislature spent $29 million on various air quality initiatives, short of Herbert’s requested $100 million, but still a record for Utah. Air quality advocacy groups tell FOX 13 that on a typical year, they’re lucky to get $2 million.