Vermont Youth Rally for the Planet
Originally posted May 16, 2016.
Montpelier, VT: Hundreds of high school and college students from around the state of Vermont participated in a climate march this past Thursday, April 28th. The march, organized by Vermont Youth Lobby, began at Vermont College of Fine Arts, and ended in a rally, speeches, and live music at the Statehouse in Montpelier.
Despite it being a slightly chilly day in April, the mood and energy was high, and it was hard not to find a smile on the faces of student’s carrying self-made signs.
As one of the largest youth-organized climate rallies in Vermont, people took notice as hundreds of students and the occasional Montpelier resident blocked half the main street in Montpelier with their large marching numbers.
In addition to the occasional uprising chant of “Hey hey ho ho, fossil fuels have got to go”, you could hear cars honking their support at the passing marchers, and youth leaders with megaphones directing students to the State House steps.
Upon reaching the State House lawn, the mass of students crowded the pavement to the bottom of the steps, awaiting more words of wisdom from fellow leaders. The first to speak was a Harwood Union High School student Emma Jean. As the first speaker for the rally, Emma not only introduced the speakers after her, but gave a rallying speech of her own.
“The face of the climate movement is changing. People from all ages and all locks of life are looking at the data and saying something needs to be done”, says Emma.
After her initial speech, Emma introduced Vermont governor Peter Shumlin. Governor Shumlin gave an encouraging speech to the students, thanking them for being at the rally, and putting pressure on their leaders for the change they wish to see. Governor Shumlin also discussed his dedication to clean energy initiatives in his five years as governor, and his hope that those continue through youth action.
In addition to governor Shumlin and a few other speakers, students heard from another student environmental advocate. Mount Mansfield High School student Graham Swaney gave a speech about his personal experiences with becoming an environmentalist, and the proposed Vermont carbon tax, something many others at the climate rally are focusing their support on.
“The transition away from fossil fuels is possible. We have the technology, we have the resources, and we have the creativity, imagination, and collective will of an entire generation”, says Graham. “We are already halfway there, we are here, we are determined, we are organized, and with the future of our planet on the line, we will not take no for an answer.”
Many supporters of the climate movement are also in support of the carbon tax. The proposed tax’s goal is to put a price on carbon pollution.
“We have a responsibility to tackle the root cause of global warming. That means we have to stop allowing oil and gas companies to pollute Vermont for free”, a quote from Energy Independent Vermont, a coalition of environmental organizations, Vermont businesses and business associations, academic leaders, low-income advocates and Town Energy Committees all dedicated to a simple goal: address the problem of climate change by putting a price on pollution here in Vermont.
In addition, multiple state representatives including Mary Sullivan, democratic representative from Chittenden county, were present to speak with students who wanted to ask questions or voice their opinions.
After the speakers, local bands Band of the Land and Headphone Jack and the Splitters both performed live music for all that gathered on the State House Lawn. Vermont native Ben & Jerry’s provided free ice cream, and local environmental advocacy organizations and non-profits had tables set-up to help rally the call to action.
As the rally wound down, students left with their signs and pins. With the appearance of government representatives and a large gathering of students, most would consider this a successful rally for voicing youth action on climate change.
As said by Graham, “This rally is about more than just what we do today in one small rural state, it is a call to action for people everywhere. If we can keep this momentum going, if we take this energy back home with us, if we are active in our communities, if we vote, if we spread awareness, real change will follow.”
For more information on the Vermont Youth Lobby and Energy Independent Vermont check out youthlobby.org and