Students representing about two dozen Vermont schools descended on the capital city of Montpelier Friday, demanding high-level focus on slowing climate change. Several teenagers rallying for the planet told NECN and NBC10 Boston climate change is one of, if not the, defining issues of their generation.
"I think it just starts with listening," Montpelier High School senior Gabe Groveman said, describing how he hopes the sight of a large crowd of students outside the Vermont State House would inspire conversations among lawmakers. "While some older people may not live through some of the worst effects of this climate crisis, my generation will."
The students called for policies that aggressively move us away from fossil fuels, and protect us against rising temperatures and severe impacts from more powerful weather events in a changing climate.
"How we eat, how we buy, how we play, how we learn, and how we live are just some of the things we can alter in order to make a difference," said U-32 junior Jasmine Gruen.
The co-chair of the Vermont Legislature's Climate Solutions Caucus, Rep. Sarah Copeland Hanzas, praised the young activists.
"Their voice really matters," the Democrat from Bradford said of the participants in Friday's rally for the planet. "It absolutely should be the issue for them. Are we leaving them an Earth that they can live in and prosper in and grow old in, or are we leaving them a mess?"
Copeland Hanzas said Vermont lawmakers are right now working on approaches to slashing greenhouse gases — both from vehicle emissions and by making homes and businesses more energy-efficient, faster.
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Suppliers of products like oil and propane, however, argue certain policies could mean low and moderate-income folks will end up facing new costs for heat, hot water, cooking, and transportation.
"Can we ban these products and services? No, we can't," said Matt Cota, the executive director of the Vermont Fuel Dealers Association. "There's no replacement that is at our disposal."
While legislative debates continue around how best to lighten our impact, students who spoke at Friday's rally said young Vermonters will not let up on their advocacy.
"I do have hope," Montpelier High School Merrick Moldun said, looking out on the large crowd of his peers who gathered outside the Vermont State House. "And I'm looking at it right now."