Raquel Juarez was a final year student at Ben Lomond High School two years ago when young Swedish activist Greta Thunberg became a leading voice in the call for reform to tackle climate change.
At this point, Thunberg had already started “Fridays for Future”, a global movement where students come out of classrooms to protest the lack of political pressure to tackle growing issues of climate change. Inspired by her, Juarez seized the opportunity to help bring this movement to Utah.
So in 2019, on the day of Utah’s first Fridays For Future event, Juarez escaped the classroom and commuted from Ogden to Salt Lake City to demand that Utah lawmakers look into the question.
She has since graduated and now works full time, but her concern for climate issues is not over. So, the week that country leaders meet to discuss issues such as climate change at the United Nations, she helped organize another walkout in Utah to coincide with a global climate strike on Friday.
“We are not going to tolerate this. It is not fair,” Juarez said. “We’re going to put our studies aside because of our basic human rights to life, a sustainable living future. That’s kind of what it means.”
About two hundred middle and high school students – mostly from the Salt Lake City school district – gathered in Washington Square before marching to the State Capitol, chanting phrases like, “Don’t let our planet die, change. climate is not a lie. and, “Hey, hey, you, you, we deserve a future too.” It was the first major event since the 2019 event.
As the crowds diminished as the afternoon wore on, dozens remained at the Capitol where they knelt and wrote on a large banner the social aspects of climate change they hope to eradicate in the near future. future – issues such as racism, oppression and ignorance. Many of those who stayed then scanned the panel as a symbolic crash of issues they hope will be addressed in the near future.
Participants in Friday’s march say they are tired of the weather being a problem that has been passed down from generation to generation like a stick. They believe they will bear the brunt of the climate effects, especially as new reports indicate the world is warming faster than originally believed. They also believe this is an issue that is not taken seriously enough by state, federal and global lawmakers right now, which they believe means it could be too late for them when their generation occupies these political seats.
As Utah remains in one of its worst droughts on record, protesters said Friday this summer produced other reminders of what the future could be: No more wildfires, no more flash floods, more hurricanes and more drought. Almost rightly, a faint blanket of smoke from distant forest fires nearly enveloped the view of Mount Wasatch as organizers spoke from the steps of the State Capitol that overlook the Salt Lake Valley.
“I think everyone should be worried about what’s going to happen because the effects are happening now,” said Natalie Roberts, a freshman at West High School, who helped organize Friday’s rally. .
For students like Roberts, they are discovering for the first time that they can push for change even if they don’t hold office and can’t even vote yet. She was inspired to join the cause by Thunberg and even more after attending the Utah Rally in 2019 as a high school student.
The 14-year-old this time placed herself at the forefront of the rally, walking up State Street with a megaphone and leading the chants along the way.
Friday’s protest is now the norm for her. It was his 60th Fridays For Future Utah event just two years ago. Roberts goes to the State Capitol after school to participate in organizational events held every Friday after the final bell.
Juarez said the climate change movement in Utah is not just inspired by the global discussion. It also draws inspiration from recent March For Our Lives protests against gun violence, Black Lives Matter, and even the civil rights movements of the 1960s, all driven primarily by young activists.
“I think young people in general, throughout history, have been responsible for (changing) things that have been unfair for a long time,” she said.
Climate change has become an increasingly bipartisan issue in Utah in recent years. The Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute at the University of Utah hosted a discussion on the topic earlier this month, in which lawmakers on both sides of the aisle agreed climate change was on the way. happening and needed to be treated. The biggest political divider now is how it should be treated today and how it should move forward.
This is where the problem lies in Utah, in the nation’s capital, and in many countries around the world. Even with new scientific reports and the growing number of natural disasters linked to climate change, Roberts argues that leaders are still not acting urgently enough to address the problem.
“You would think it would inspire people to take action, but surprisingly it doesn’t,” she said.
That’s why she plans to continue attending more walkouts and more rallies in the future, and hopes her peers will join her in the effort.
Juarez agrees. She believes climate change is more important to her generation as she and the following will likely be the most difficult to deal with, which is why she continues to hold rallies.
“We’re going to see the effects, which makes the difference with previous generations,” she said. “It will be something we have to live with.”