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Students from Julius West Middle rally for climate change awareness on Earth Day 

Students from Julius West Middle rally for climate change awareness on Earth Day 

Students at Julius West Middle rally to raise awareness of climate change on Earth Day 

Julius West Middle School’s 1,500 students took to the athletic field Friday morning, some bearing signs with messages such as “There Is No Planet B,” and “I was hoping for a cooler death,” to raise awareness of global warming on Earth Day. 

Montgomery County celebrates Earth Day with several events, including the rally at Rockville School. The annual day was created to encourage environmental sustainability. It began on April 22, 1970. 

Students rallied on the field for approximately 40 minutes at 8:20 a.m. on Friday. Eighth-grader Rosie Clemans-Cope, a budding climate activist, led the rally, urging them to chant “no more coal. No more oil. Keep the carbon in the soil.” She was joined by a few other students who spoke during the rally. 

Bethesda Beat heard from Clemans -Cope before the event, that she and other student leaders have a number of demands. They want to switch to renewable energy and have solar panels on every rooftop.  

MCPS was Last year, 38% of the company’s electricity came from renewable energy sources., according to the school system’s website. However, that number has increased steadily from 5% in 2005 – the year MCPS started buying renewable energy credits. 

According to the school system, 17 MCPS schools have also installed solar photovoltaics systems. 

Clemans -Cope has been organizing climate demonstrations since fifth grade as part of the international Fridays for Future Climate movement. She said The gatherings have grown from about 10 people initially, to more than 100 at some that she’s organized this school year. Friday’s schoolwide event was the 18th demonstration she’s organized this academic year. 

“Mostly students are not taught in school the urgency of the climate crisis. Like, they might learn about climate change,” she said. “They might know what it is. But they don’t know that it will affect our futures directly over the next few years if we don’t act now.” 

Clemans-Cope Bethesda Magazine, last yearAfter witnessing Greta Thunberg, a teenage activist, hold a single climate strike through Sweden, she was inspired to join the environmental movement. 

Clemans-Cope was joined by fellow students Kevin Achtmeyer and Jahnavi Sabnis during Friday’s rally. Achtmeyer, a sixth grader, told the crowd gathered Friday that the task to save the planet “rests on our shoulders.” 

Previous generations “could have stopped climate change.  But the task to save humanity was ignored by every generation before us,” he said. 

After the event, Achtmeyer (12 years old) told Bethesda Beat that he enjoys hiking outside and became interested in the environment after seeing a campsite covered with garbage. He said not all of his classmates are as passionate about climate change as he is, but he hopes activities such as Friday’s rally will help raise awareness. 

“Some of them think this is a joke. Some of them don’t really care,” he said. “It’s really unfortunate because they’re the ones that are going to be suffering from this.” 

Sabnis, 13 years old, said that she has always cared about animals’ welfare since she was in her first grade. That sparked an interest in climate change. 

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“More recently I realized that it’s not just animals that are affected. It’s people as well,” she said. 

After the event, Amanda Plunkett, a seventh- and eighth-grade teacher, told Bethesda Beat that seeing so many children rally behind a cause gave hope. 

“I thought it was inspiring to see all the kids come together to support a cause that will have such a big impact on their future,” she said. 

Principal Craig Staton said he’s been impressed with the way the Friday climate rallies have grown throughout the school year. 

“It started small, and it culminated into a great day, Earth Day, where we got the whole school involved. Any time you can get the whole school involved, it’s a great effort,” he said. 

Dan Schere can be reached at daniel.schere@bethesdamagazine.com 

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