By Martin Kidston/Missoula Current
Protesters marched through downtown Missoula on Saturday to challenge President Donald Trump’s stance on the environment, saying it was time to stand together to combat climate change and protect the policies championed by the prior administration.
Hundreds of people marched through the city’s streets hoisting signs calling for climate action, with several noting Trump’s efforts to undo environmental protections, along with his statements that climate change is a hoax.
“In the face of growing obstacles, it’s my goal to remind all of you of the long way we still have to tread,” Hellgate High School student Esther Lyon Delsordo told the crowd. “It’s only by gathering, organizing and uniting in the name of global justice that we’ll succeed.”
Led by the Hellgate High School Marching Band, the march through Missoula coincided with the Peoples Climate March, a national event that drew an estimated 200,000 people to Washington, D.C.
Here, like those rallies held across the country on Saturday, protesters cited frustration over Trump’s threat to withdraw the nation from the Paris Agreement, which joined more than 190 countries in a planetary effort to slow global warming.
Trump also has proposed cuts to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
“Our president is shutting down government organizations that are helping to educate us as the people of the U.S. on this subject,” one young girl told the crowd.
“Let’s save our planet,” her friend added. “After all, it’s the only planet that has puppies.”
The Peoples Climate March coincided with Trump’s 100-day milestone and, according to national organizers, it sought to build support for up-and-coming political candidates with a strong environmental record.
Organized in Missoula by Amy Cilimburg, director of Climate Smart Missoula, Saturday’s event drew the support of more than a dozen state organizations, from the Mission Mountain Audubon Society to the National Wildlife Federal and the Montana Chapter of the Sierra Club.
“As millennials, we often feel like our voices are being suppressed,” said Hellgate High School student Anwen Toelaske. “We’re here today to prove that the youth voices are an essential factor in the local and national community.”
Missoula’s rally was led in large part by a coalition of high school and college students, with many suggesting that the generation in power too often neglects the concerns of the younger generation, which stands to inherit the planet.
This past week at the University of Montana, as many as eight students were cited for trespassing during a three-day sit-in at the UM Foundation’s main office. As they have for much of the year, members of Reinvest Montana have asked the foundation’s board of directors to divest from fossil fuels, but with little success.
It wasn’t lost to many rally goers on Saturday that a coal train sat fully loaded in the Montana Rail Link rail yard just beyond the gathering.
“You don’t have to change the entire global community when you can start right here at home,” said Toelaske. “We can reach further and further, never letting down until the necessary decisions are made for positive change.”
Most environmental activists now believe public opinion is on their side. According to Reuters, a recent Gallup poll suggested that nearly 60 percent of Americans agree that protecting the environment should take priority over increased U.S. energy production.
“A majority of us high school students can’t vote,” said Toelaske. “Whether you’re left or right politically, or anywhere in between, we only have one Earth to share. Unity is the strongest force when adversity strikes.”
Contact reporter Martin Kidston at firstname.lastname@example.org