By Jesse Kurtz-Nicholl

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Several Fridays this spring, local high school students protested climate crisis inaction by our nation’s leaders. They were not alone. Students throughout Europe “strike” every Friday, protesting climate inaction. The youth refer to their cause as a generational justice issue, because climate change will affect them and future generations more than the current adults in power. These students see inaction as “polite silence” from their leaders and are coming to realize they have a bigger stake in solving the climate crisis.

A few months ago, Bend High School became just the third student council in the entire nation to pass a climate resolution, calling on Congress to act. Skyline, Realms, Summit, Mountain View and Marshall High Schools all took the baton from BHS students and passed similar resolutions this spring. The resolutions are nonpartisan, call for common-sense policy solutions and plead with their elected leaders to act. Our Bend-area schools are now part of a grassroots national campaign — Schools for Climate Action — S4CA — designed to help the educational sector end its climate silence and find its nonpartisan voice.

On March 28, S4CA delivered over 60 resolutions from student councils, school boards and PTOs to all 535 members of Congress and their staffs. Youth-adult teams from around the country delivered resolutions from the National Black Council of the National School Board Association and the California Association of School Psychologists, not to mention the three student councils from Bend. There are over 14,000 school boards and over 100,000 education leaders nationwide, so this movement is just beginning and students from Bend are leading.

What has awakened and motivated our students? One important alarm is the recently released 700-page, U.N. report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change which states that the world has just 12 years to act in order to limit the warming of our planet to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit). This report represents the consensus of 97% of active publishing climate scientists. Yet media continues to publish opinions by skeptics of climate change as if they were equally credible. What more do our students need to see to realize they must act now in their own self-defense when the adult leaders of their communities are ignoring science, ignoring the facts and proceeding as if everything is fine.

While Bend teachers through the Bend Education Association have taken a stand for their students with their own resolution, they represent some of the first teachers in the nation to do so. Teachers, administrators, school counselors, coaches and school psychologists that dedicate and spend their lives educating, protecting and nurturing our children have remained politely silent. We teach kids to trust science and we want them STEM trained, and the science suggests we are headed somewhere bad and fast, yet no one is acting like that is the case.

In the May school board meeting, students from Bend High and Realms High used the public comment period to ask their elected representatives to follow the example of virtually every student council in the district and pass their own board resolution calling on national leaders to act sensibly. The response was supportive and positive; the students and their leaders are in talks to hopefully pass a resolution soon.

We are the adults. The evidence of harm is clear. It is time to join our children in their campaign to awaken elected leaders to the immediate and urgent crisis we all face.

— Jesse Kurtz-Nicholl lives in Bend.