Rural Students To Join In Classroom Walkout Over Climate Change

May 3, 2019
Originally published on May 3, 2019 9:44 am
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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Climate change - high school students around the country and the world are again planning to walk out of class today to demand lawmakers take action on the issue. While the protest movement has been loudest in cities, there is growing interest in rural areas. Here's NPR's Kirk Siegler.

JOHNETH PRICE: Fighting for climate justice...

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: Fighting for climate justice...

PRICE: ...And our futures.

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: ...And our futures.

KIRK SIEGLER, BYLINE: When American students staged a climate walkout in March, Johneth Price, a junior at Central High in Grand Junction, Colo., noticed the protests tended to be in urban areas. But in her mind, rural economies may be hit even harder by global warming - even though they have fewer people and tend to have less political clout.

PRICE: Farmers are going to be impacted by any climate change that occurs. We have a lot of outdoor tourism industry which would also be affected by negative outcomes of climate change.

SIEGLER: But rural communities like hers also rely heavily on oil and gas drilling. A recent study showed it employs 10,000 people in western Colorado. And that's a sticking point when it comes to even starting a conversation about climate policy in Price's conservative-leaning town.

PRICE: They mainly just don't want their jobs taken away because when it comes to regulations, the main fear is that, oh, that's going to shut down the industry where I work near my town.

SIEGLER: This is why Price says rural students need more of a voice in the burgeoning movement. It's one thing to just demand a climate policy that cuts all fossil fuels.

PRICE: But we also think it's necessary that in the process of transitioning that we're addressing these people that are employed by the industry and how we can transition them, as well, and not leave them kind of stranded.

SIEGLER: Price says the national protest platform needs to include plans to retrain displaced oil workers for jobs in clean energy or tech if it's really going to gain traction in all of America, not just cities. Most of today's youth climate strikes are happening during school. Grand Junction's group decided to wait until after classes are out to be a little bit less disruptive in a community where the topic is maybe more sensitive. Kirk Siegler, NPR News, Denver. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.