We All Need To Be Climate Activists

Here is what I wrote this weekend about Friday’s climate strike in Bozeman, including the text of my speech for the rally:

Thanks for Joining the Global Climate Strike in Bozeman!

Friday morning, as a cold rain started to fall in Bozeman, so too fell the hopes of those of us who had worked for months to organize the Global Climate Strike in Bozeman. Who would come out on such a cold, wet, miserable day?

As we finalized logistics for the march that morning, our spirits were high but our expectations for a big turnout had sunk along with the temperature.

Were we ever wrong! Bozeman, you stepped up, big time. High school students showed up, MSU students showed up, adults and families with young kids showed up. Over 1,000 people came out to march on a wet, cold, sit-inside-by-a-fire kind of day. Wow. Thank you all!

As organizers, we smiled until our faces nearly cracked, we hugged and high fived, and felt deep, deep joy for the first time in a long time. People care. Bozeman showed up! We are making a difference.

By Saturday the euphoria had worn off, replaced by a deep sense of satisfaction. I ran into a friend at the hardware store who said he’d seen the march but hadn’t attended and wondered how I felt it had gone. I said “incredible.” Another friend texted to say she was sorry she’d had to miss it for work reasons, but heard it was great. Other friends apologized they had to leave town early to take their kids to a soccer tournament and missed it all.

It made me realize Friday was a fantastic beginning, but we still have very far to go. We need everyone to join us next time. More than 1,000 people marched on Friday. Next time let’s get 10,000!

I had planned to give a speech at Friday’s rally, speaking on behalf of, and to, the parents in Bozeman. But it was too cold to ask people to listen to another speech, so I asked the band to play instead it. Here is what I was going to say:

Parents Must Do Everything Possible for our Kid’s Future

As parents, most of us would do pretty much anything for our kids. If our kids were sick, and we were told they were going to die without medical help, we’d drop everything and get them the best care possible

Yet as I checked out media coverage of the Global Climate Strike I saw so many young people leading and it made me reflect on all the adults who hadn’t attended for various reasons. It is obvious that we parents aren’t taking the greatest threat to our kid’s futures ,the climate crisis, seriously enough.

We’re so busy living the Bozeman dream that we’ve overlooked the climate nightmare looming over our kid’s future. Instead of shouting in the streets demanding a better future for our kids, we go on about business as usual, working, playing, trying to get ahead.

Fortunately, young people are leading the way. Because of them, we are here and millions of people are striking in over 150 countries today, the media is talking about the climate crisis like never before, and it has become a top issue in a Presidential election for the first time ever. Young people have given us hope.

But to paraphrase 16-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, “adults love to say ‘you young people give us hope.’ But we don’t want your hope, we want your help.”

As adults we know that this problem is too big for our kids to solve alone. Our house is on fire. Our children’s futures are at stake. Greta’s right – it’s time to help them. Of course, that’s why we are here today.

Life is busy and we all have to make choices every day, but I want to be able to look my kids in the eyes and say “I’m doing everything I can for you and your future.” Don’t you?

We Solve the Climate Crisis by Rising Up Together

Climate change is a big bold overwhelming problem that requires big bold overwhelming solutions. We can’t solve this problem just by asking people to make better choices, we solve it by giving them better options.

We can’t solve it just by some of us choosing to put solar panels on our houses, or to drive our cars less, or to eat less meat, although those are all good things to do. We solve it by making sure everyone has clean renewable electricity, electric vehicles, and healthy low-carbon food, even if they don’t care about climate change.

We solve it by passing a Green New Deal and creating system-wide change so that we stop burning fossil fuels and we put people and planet before profits for the world’s richest corporations

We solve it by stopping deforestation and by protecting our public lands to preserve the biodiversity of our land and oceans.

We solve it by creating a better, cleaner, more equitable world.

These big changes will be massive undertakings, and big powerful industries will fight us every step of the way. Climate change is an existential threat to us, but climate action is an existential threat to their profits.

To counter their money and power we must rise up together to create a mass movement of people-power so large and so loud that we cannot be ignored. A movement that grows so big that we cross a tipping point where climate action becomes inevitable and climate tipping points that lead to runaway climate chaos are avoided.

What You Can Do Personally

There is one personal lifestyle choice we must all make. We must all choose to join this movement and become climate activists.

To be a climate activist, talk about climate breakdown every chance you get — with friends, family, colleagues, supermarket cashiers and other activists.

Skip work to attend a rally, cut out a round of golf or a bike ride to meet with political candidates. Protest. Get arrested if you have to. Your kid’s future is at stake!

Demand that our political leaders take bold action on climate and vote to replace those who won’t act with those who will.

Join the Sunrise Movement or another climate group, attend rallies, write op-eds, and encourage your friends and family to become climate activists too.

Take action locally to push Bozeman to join the more than 130 cities and 7 states in passing laws requiring us to commit to 100% clean energy by 2035.

Together, We Will Do This

Thank you, Bozeman High School and Montana State University students, the young people of Sunrise Movement Gallatin Valley, and all of the other kids at Friday’s Global Climate Strike, for showing us the way so far. But thank you, also, to all of the adults who heeded their call and joined them on a cold, rainy day in Bozeman.

All of us who showed up were climate activists on Friday. We made a difference by putting our bodies out in the cold and our voices into the sky, letting everyone see and hear that we demand action.

But Friday was just the beginning, and we have far to go with very little time to get there. We need all of our friends who care about the future, but who stayed home, to join us. We need them to move from passive supporters of climate action to become climate activists, too.

Make climate activism a priority in your life. Our future, our kids’ future, depends on it. Together, we can do this.

Greg Findley