'Can't learn on a dead planet': students demand school system 'get serious about climate change'

'Can't learn on a dead planet': students demand school system 'get serious about climate change'
Students at Wootton High School in Rockville, Md.Courtesy of Jim Driscoll

Students in Montgomery, County Maryland are asking the school system to greenify their campuses by abandoning fossil fuels as sources of power.

The young activists drafted a petition with an itemized list of demands, including that Montgomery County Public Schools "get serious about climate change." Hundreds of people have already added their names in support of the campaign.

"MCPS must act on the climate crisis. We, the students, will face widespread crop failure, yards of sea level rise, and increased natural disasters. To avert runaway warming and an even worse crisis, every level of government must take sweeping action immediately. But our schools are only making the climate problem worse," the document states.

"Currently, only 38% of MCPS’ energy is purchased from renewable sources, and MCPS still builds schools with fossil fuel furnaces. Their so-called progress to install solar panels in schools has inched up to 17 of MCPS’ 209 schools. The Board of Education claims to commit to continuous improvement, but they lack the action necessary for this. The Board recently committed to reducing carbon emissions by 80% by 2027 and 100% by 2035 -- but they took no action to make this happen. MCPS’ inaction actively hurts their students, especially students of color and low-income students," the petition continues. "Through MCPS’ continued use of fossil fuels and their inertia and resistance to any positive change, they endanger the young people whom they have committed to educating. It is time for MCPS to start treating climate change as the crisis it is."

There are six key goals:

    1. Buy ONLY renewable energy.
    2. Electrify (stop using fossil fuels to heat) any new buildings and find the money to switch those under construction or in planning.
    3. Install solar panels at every school, either on rooftops or over parking lots, by 2027.
    4. Increase energy efficiency which can be done at no cost to MCPS due to energy savings.
    5. Demand necessary funding from state/federal sources to retrofit gas-heated schools with electric systems.
    6. Provide good “prevailing” wages, a fully just transition, and targeted hiring from low-income, MoCo communities for all MCPS-funded work.

Janani Krishnamurthy, a sophomore at Thomas S. Wootton High School in Rockville, Maryland, told DCist.com that "we want to ensure that while our schools are educating us, that we have a future to be educated on. We definitely cannot learn on a dead planet."

Krishnamurthy added that the actions that MCPS have taken thus far are "definitely not enough."

Students across Montgomery County have held protests and rallies while holding banners that say, “Fossil free schools now,” and “Can’t learn on a dead planet.”

The local Sunrise Movement group and the Montgomery County Green New Deal Internship worked in tandem with the activists, according to DCist.com.

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