More than a few people have tried to tell Maddy Fernands, a sophomore at Edina High School, that she has been worrying over nothing.
While door-knocking to support legislation addressing climate change, she’s been told that “you never know” what the future will actually bring, and that what we’re currently calling climate change might just be one of the many “different patterns” of a warming and cooling planet.
Fernands knows the science behind climate change. She’s part of a statewide student-led organization called MN Can’t Wait, which campaigns for immediate and “bold” action to stop heating up the planet. Today, she and her fellow teens are meeting outside Governor Tim Walz’s office and ask for executive action on his behalf to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.
It’s easy for some to dismiss the political concerns of a bunch of middle- and high-schoolers as the fervor and folly of youth, but these kids know it’s their future on the line. They don’t have the luxury to ignore the rising temperatures, the mounting torrential rains, the death of the maples, and the crumbling infrastructure. Those ripening crises are theirs to inherit.
“People distance climate change as something that affects the polar bears,” Fernands says. She and her fellow members of MN Can't Wait see the bigger picture.
“I’m scared about the outdoors simply being taken away,” Shoreview sophomore Anna Grace Hottinger says. More immediately, she’s scared for people like her sister, who was evacuated from her home in California this fall due to rampaging wildfires. She’s safe now and will join Hottinger at the Capitol.
There’s hope within MN Can’t Wait that Walz will be a willing and eager partner. The visit is supposed to be an introduction rather than a confrontation. “We want to work with him, and we’re looking forward to having him as a leader,” Hopkins High School senior Lia Harel says.
In fact, plenty of the adults Fernands comes across are actually really supportive, and she’s grateful for that. But it’s “frustrating” when she’s confronted with a generation unwilling to contemplate great change in the face of grave danger.
“A lot of people think we’re trying to upend their lives because we want to address climate change,” she says. She tries to tell them that’s not true. They just want what the previous generations have always had: hockey on the lake in the winter and plenty of clean water all year round. And yes, that means making some substantial adjustments.
But the alternative is unthinkable.
“We need to stop making decisions on what’s politically possible,” Harel says, “And start making decisions based on what’s necessary.”