Climate change has been on weighing on Josh Gottlieb’s mind. The Kalamazoo Central High School teacher says when his young children are grown, he wants them to know he fought for a habitable planet. Last spring he went to his students and asked what they could to together.
“Basically, what the students said is we want to deliver the United States to Greta,” he said. They were referring to Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old Swedish activist who famously started skipping school on Fridays to protest inaction on the climate crisis.
Rising senior Chloe Carlson says she hears from some of her classmates about the urgency of addressing global warming. But most “don’t know how greatly it’s going to affect them and they don’t know the science behind it,” she said. “They’re just like, “‘But it will get figured out. It’s not something we need to deal with,’” she added.
Carlson hopes to increase their sense of urgency. But Kalamazoo Central students won’t need to leave class on Fridays to do something about global warming this year.
With Principal Valerie Boggan’s blessing, and in collaboration with local groups including the Sunrise Movement, Citizens’ Climate Lobby and Extinction Rebellion, Gottlieb and his students are planning a year of climate-centered Fridays that will combine academics (student presentations on the physics of global warming, for example) with activism.
They’re kicking off the events on Sept. 20, which is also a global day of climate action. Several events are planned for Kalamazoo.
One thing they’re not going to do at Central, Gottlieb insists, is just talk among themselves. On WMUK’s West Southwest Brief, he and Carlson explain why they’ll be reaching out to Stryker, Pfizer and the City of Kalamazoo this year as they push for action to preserve a habitable planet.
Gottlieb also explains what he thinks of the idea that climate activists should tone down their anxieties so as not to frighten people away.