Aspen-Snowmass students to lead climate strike, encourage local environmental action |

Aspen-Snowmass students to lead climate strike, encourage local environmental action

From left, Lilly Justice, Isabella Poschman, Elsie Weiss, Eske Roennau and Willow Poschman stand in a classroom at Aspen High School on Sept. 13. The freshman are members of the Aspen Junior Environmentalists and are set to lead a climate strike on Sept. 20.
Maddie Vincent/Snowmass Sun

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The Aspen Junior Environmentalists encourage all Aspen-Snowmass locals interested in participating in the Friday climate strike march to meet at the high school near the bus loading area at 8:30 a.m. The high school students will first walk to the middle school to pick up participating students there, then walk along the bike path and sidewalks to the City Hall building, aiming to be there by 10:30 a.m.

There will be a discussion with Mayor Torre and a question and answer session at City Hall, along with an opportunity for participants to write letters to state and national representatives and to make personal pledges related to decreasing their carbon footprints.

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For over a dozen Aspen-Snowmass area students, skipping school Friday isn’t a choice.

It’s not an angsty teenager thing, it’s not to score a three-day weekend. It’s to take part in the youth-led, global climate strike and to incite action by those who have the power to determine what the students’ futures hold.

“I feel that fighting for the Earth is more important than being in school because why be educated in your future if you don’t have a future?” said Eske Roennau, a freshman at Aspen High School. “From now on we can’t choose whether or not to act on climate change, we just have to.”

Spearheaded by 16-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, thousands of students across the U.S. and around the world will skip school and demonstrate outside of their local government buildings Friday to bring climate change and its impacts to the forefront of adults’ attentions.

Roennau and about a dozen other local students from the Aspen Junior Environmentalists group will lead a local branch of this larger movement, marching from Aspen High School with signs to City Hall, where they will meet with Mayor Torre and host a discussion related to greener, more sustainable living.

“A lot of people don’t see environmental sustainability as something that directly affects them, so they focus on other things,” said Willow Poschman, 14. “The environment isn’t this other thing that needs protecting, we are a part of it as biological beings. So it’s kind of saving ourselves. Our future depends on how we act.”

On a recent day after school, Poschman, her twin sister, Isabella, and their friend Lilly Justice talked about what led them to start the Aspen Junior Environmentalists.

“We just had to,” said Isabella Poschman. “It’s the only way at this age we can make change because we’re not old enough to vote.”

The three freshmen said they and a few of their peers started taking action as a group in eighth grade when they started trying to encourage students to properly compost their waste and helped paint a mural at the middle school to raise awareness about gray wolves.

As they did more school-related environmental projects, they met more students who were interested in sustainability and reducing their carbon footprints, which ultimately led the teens to create a more formal group.

When the young environmentalists heard about the global climate strike, they felt they had to take part and saw it as a way to engage their peers and adults in environmental conversation.

On Sept. 11, the teens went to the Board of Pitkin County Commissioners (the Poschmans’ father, Greg, is one of them) and asked the board to declare a climate emergency, which they feel will spark awareness about climate change. Four other governments in Colorado have made similar declarations, including Basalt, Boulder, Boulder County and Fort Collins.

The junior environmentalists hope the county will follow suit and make an emergency declaration, along with the city of Aspen, as a result of the climate strike Friday. They also hope more than just students join them either during the march, at City Hall, or both.

“Our goal is to address problems in our community related to climate change and other environmental issues and to just get our voices heard,” Willow Poschman said.

“We want to motivate students to be engaged but also to make change in our entire community,” Justice added.

After Friday’s strike, Justice, the Poschman sisters and the other group members will return to the Aspen public schools campus to take part in another effort aimed at engaging the larger community in the climate change conversation: A “We Care About the Climate Crisis” gathering on lower Moore Field where students and locals are encouraged to wear white shirts and create a giant human snowflake that will be captured with a drone camera.

There are other events around the valley planned for Friday, including a noon event in Carbondale. Aspen Skiing Co. is giving its employees a pass Friday and urging them to participate in the Global Climate Strike.

Skico has a tradition of giving a summer “Hall Pass Day.” This year it is making it a little different, President and CEO Mike Kaplan said in a letter to employees.

“We are asking you to use your role as a citizen to push on the climate problem,” Kaplan wrote.

Moving forward, the Aspen Junior Environmentalists plan to keep this bigger climate picture at the forefront of people’s minds by starting a composting project for the entire high school, along with similar projects for local businesses in the Aspen-Snowmass area.

While they recognize it won’t be easy getting everyone on board with committing to greener lifestyles, the teens said they feel if they continue to live greener themselves and work to educate those around them, they can make a difference.

“Once there’s a sense of unity, it will be easier to jump on the bandwagon,” Isabella Poschman said. “We need as many people to care (about climate change) as possible so they feel they are a part of it and the solution, too.”


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