Environmental Advocacy? Unexcused Absence.

Blake Zimmermann

A serene, quiet Bellingham morning emerges, with birds chirping, and trees swaying in the mellow breeze. Pedestrians stroll along with ease, and flowers bloom in the emerging sunlight. But this peace was short lived. Silence is then interrupted by a mighty armada of small commuter cars, driven exclusively by high school students. Carbon dioxide billows from exhaust pipes, suffocating the desperate atmosphere. This image may seem striking, but was reality on March 15th this year, when students and employees around the world left their schools and work to “protest” to their local governments about the current environmental standards. Sounds like a great idea, right? Well this is what many Sehome students thought as well, but I’m here to tell you why this was overall both an ineffective and waste of time for us students.

Although it makes sense for those in jobs associated with nature, energy, or other “environment” related jobs to leave their work, it doesn’t make sense for a student in high school. When you walk out of an institution, it usually means you have a problem with that specific institution in the way that it approaches this problem. I don’t think that this was the logic path for those students who left, I think they were frustrated with the lax approach to environmental regulation that the world has overall. In fact, according to the Bellingham Promise, Sehome High School specifically has made strides to be more sustainable, such as becoming the first school in the district to start using reusable plates, bowls, cups and cutlery for student meals.

In addition to Sehome High School, Washington State, among many other coastal states, have been large advocates for environmentally progressive movements, and continue to make efforts to improve our current consumption of our precious natural resources. Not only this, but Washington has been in a leader in using sustainable and environmentally friendly fuels for our energy. In fact, the Grand Coulee Dam is the largest hydroelectric power plant in the country by generation capacity, and provides power to 2.3 million homes a year.

Finally, probably the most common thing that comes to most students minds when talking about this event, is how ironic and counterintuitive it was to drive to an event that has the main goal of countering unnecessary use of energy and natural resources. In fact, many students drove by themselves, not carpooling, contradicting the entire idea of the event. In fact, many students have reported that they simply left school and went home, which means that they made the commute to school to only be there for less than two hours and then drove back home. Not only this, but the kids who came back to school after this march made four total driving trips during their school day, as opposed to the normal two that would be made usually.

A potential argument against this could be that people walked out of schools all across the country last year because of a violent school shooting that happened last year, and this was very effective at creating new rules and regulations on all levels of government. While this is accurate, this shooting happened at a school, which is why school students walked out. If these environmental concerns were a result of the school, then students leaving makes much more sense.

In conclusion, this walkout was a waste of time and an additional unexcused absence on the students who happened to attend. If you are really concerned about our environment and the way it is being treated, try contacting members of your local government directly to express your concerns, so they know what specifically to address, and how to address it. We are the future, and we can change it, but actions like this are simply not helpful.