No Planet B 

Boise youth activists join global movement calling for action on climate change

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Harrison Berry

Young people around the world have a statement to send the political decision-makers: Inaction on climate change is unacceptable. The mechanism they've collectively chosen is an act of mass truancy. On Friday, Sept. 20, thousands of students will miss class across the globe fighting against inaction on climate change.

"We're really wanting to galvanize the youth here in town, to really get angry," said Jyoni Shuler, one of the organizers of Boise's climate strike. "[We are] just giving them the platform."

High-school and college-age students in Boise will take to the Idaho State Capitol on Friday as part of the Sunrise Movement, an American youth-led climate action organization. Students will take to the capitol from noon to 1:30 p.m., and a whole day of climate activism-related events have been planned, including an all-ages meet-up and happy hour at Lost Grove Brewing from 3-6 p.m. following the strike.

According to the United Nations, there are 11 years to counter the effects of climate change before the damage is irreversible. Oceans will rise, natural disasters will worsen and drought and famine will become more common. Young people of today will feel the brunt of the negative effects. A worldwide movement calling for action is already in motion.

The demonstration itself will be in conjunction with the international Fridays For Our Future movement, which was started by 16-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg and calls for a global school strike. Thunberg recently sailed to the United States for the United Nations Climate Summit in New York City advocating for the strike, sending a message that politicians need to take action on climate change.

Shuler, who works full time as a research assistant at the Idaho Humane Society, told Boise Weekly that the demonstration in Boise will bring students from all walks of life, mostly high school and college ages, to the capitol instead of class. It seeks to be a platform for youth who want to voice their frustration, anger and fear over what they see as a lack of policy movement regarding the issue. While some older speakers are invited, the focus is on local youth.

"We live in the days of Trump and he is an outright climate denier," they said. "We're seeing this isn't just something that will happen in the future, the climate crisis is upon us."

To Shuler, and many of the strikers around the world, the sustainability of the earth's environment is the biggest political issue facing not only the U.S., but the globe. While there are other important political fights, none pose such an existential threat to the planet as climate change.

"To us, if we don't solve this climate issue," they said. "None of that will matter."

Shuler said that given the current political climate of the U.S., the fight is an uphill battle, but the obstacles make the struggle even more worth the while.

"We're doing absolutely nothing and in fact our federal government is denying this," Shuler said. "We just hope this is yet another call to action."

The goal of the strikes, not only locally but worldwide, is to force action on climate change, and Shuler said it won't be a one-off event. Going forward, through the Sunrise Movement and other similar groups, they hope to keep organizing and fighting for change.

"It is idealistic to assume they're all just going to change their minds after one strike but certainly it is better than inaction," Shuler said.

The climate, notably, is a key issue for many voters. While it is significantly more important to Democratic voters, with 72% of them saying it's a "very important" issue according to a recent CBS poll, it's much less important to Republicans, just 20% of whom say it's a voting issue.

Shuler said among younger Republican voters, they believe it's becoming a bigger issue, too.

Climate change has become an intensely polarizing problem, but so far, the local Sunrise Movement chapter hasn't received much negative feedback. To them, that's not important.

"At this point, it's beyond question. It's not an issue of dealing with the deniers," Shuler said. "They're in existential denial about our future."

While the movement is youth-led, it did receive backing from some major environmental interest groups in the area, including the Sierra Club and the Snake River Alliance.

"The Snake River Alliance is partnering with young climate activists in Idaho to demand climate justice and emergency action to tackle the climate crisis," Snake River Alliance Executive Director Holly Harris told Boise Weekly in a statement. "We are taking our lead from young Idahoans, because they called and organized this mobilization. For younger generations, climate change is not a partisan issue."

Harris said intensifying natural disasters such as wildfires, storms, drought and famine are the result of the changing environment. The youth recognize that and want to do something about it, she said.

"They also recognize that continuing with business as usual only benefits dirty, costly, nonrenewable fossil fuel and nuclear industries," she said.

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