Many of Whidbey’s young people are worried about how their futures will look on a warming planet with diminishing resources.
Students from across the island joined youth around the world Friday in protests demanding political action to address climate change. Adult members of the community joined to show their support as hundreds gathered in Freeland and Coupeville, but it was younger generations who led the charge, inspired by 16-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunburg.
“Our major concern is that if we don’t do something now, then we won’t be able to in the future,” said Annie Philp, a 10th grader at South Whidbey High School who helped organized Freeland’s event, which took place from 11:30 a.m. to about 2 p.m.
The day was marked by similar events worldwide that an estimated four million people attended in more than one hundred countries, according to the New York Times.
Philp and fellow Social Justice Club Co-president Maggie Nattress led approximately 150 people in a march from Wells Fargo to Chase Bank in Freeland to send a message regarding two of the largest contributors to the fossil fuel industry, according to a report by Rainforest Action Network and five other environmental groups.
The students discussed JP Morgan Chase, Wells Fargo and other top banks’ billion-dollar investments into fossil fuel expansion. One of the attendees later announced she’d closed her account with one of the companies.
“Fossil fuel can’t be our future,” Philp said.
“If we want to continue living on this planet,” Nattress added.
Students in Central Whidbey expressed similar sentiments and fears during a subsequent protest that afternoon at the intersection of Main Street and Highway 20 in Coupeville.
The captains of Coupeville High School girls soccer team requested a late start for practice so that players could join the approximately 200 people that stood on all four corners of the intersection and on the overpass.
A group of Oak Harbor High School students made the trip south to show their solidarity to the cause as well.
“We are the future,” said Ella Langrock, 17 of Oak Harbor.
“It’s going to be our world,” she later added.
Langrock was joined by a group of fellow Oak Harbor High School Liberty Club members as they stood on the corner with a megaphone and signs that read “The water is rising so are we,” “Time is running out” and “Keep the [Earth] clean it’s not Uranus.”
They said if such a wide range of ages and demographics could gather and acknowledge the issue, then so should the heads of the country’s presidential administration.
Coupeville’s event wasn’t organized by students and youth, but it was organized for them.
Gary Piazzon, his wife Dianne Deseck-Piazzon and the group Indivisible Whidbey put together Coupeville’s contribution to the global event.
“We’re here really supporting the young people in their efforts to further open the minds and hearts of the American people,” Piazzon said.
Last week’s events aren’t the end.
Philp and Nattress are following Thunberg’s lead and hoping to protest each week in what’s now called Fridays for the Future.
The students are hoping to inspire their peers into action as well as encourage government leaders at all levels to address the issue.