Earth Day at Hellgate

By Eliot Thompson

Aside from Lenin’s birthday, April 22 is also Earth Day.  Earth Day, founded in 1970, has been about ecological awareness, civic engagement, political action, so when I was asked to speak at Hellgate High School for its Earth Week celebration, there was no way I could refuse.

The young leaders, as my co-presenter Anna refers to the Hellgate students, have already done quite a bit through their environmental Students Against Violating the Earth (SAVE) club.  They created a rooftop garden, added another garden on the school grounds, helped install solar panels, and do hella recycling.  So maybe there wasn’t too much more for us to share, especially after following a presentation by a couple folks from Home ReSource, but we did our darndest anyways. 

Anyways, we cried a little, laughed a little, and learned a little.  Really, it was a quasi-spiritual journey of self-and-climate-change-discovery.  In the dimly lit, except for our faces, auditorium with tens upon tens of teenaged eyes, we shared comics of penguins, learned that incredibly there are people in this world who do not know where Illinois is on a map, talked about how climate change is and will affect us all (some more than others), we talked about local government efforts to  mitigate and adapt to climate change, and we talked about the many ways students can participate in the public sphere: publicly commenting at local government meetings; writing, calling, or emailing officials (and how best to do that); and commenting on NorthWest Energy’s 2019 procurement plan.  And in the end we briefly touched on personhood for natural land and water marks, and I let Anna field a question asking us if we’re aware of how electromagnetic waves from cell phone towers are accelerating climate change (we are not).  It was a full hour.