South students urge Governor Walz to take action on climate change


Photo courtesy of Kira Liu

South sophomore Isra Hirsi making a plea to Minnesota’s new Governor Tim Walz to take action on climate change. Hirsi is part of a youth-led group working for climate justice called “MN Can’t Wait,” and was one of over 100 youth that met with Walz last Wednesday.

Erika Peterson, Staff Writer

On Wednesday, January 9, around fifteen South students joined over 100 other youth from across Minnesota to meet with Governor Tim Walz, Lieutenant Governor Flanagan, and Minnesota Pollution Control Agency commissioner Laura Bishop. It was Walz’s third day in office and the students were urging them to take action on climate change.

The students were representing Minnesota Can’t Wait, a youth-led movement for bold statewide climate action. At the meeting, they launched their 3-tiered platform: asking Walz to take executive action directing the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency to limit greenhouse gasses, introducing a Minnesota “Green New Deal” bill which would eliminate statewide greenhouse gasses by 2030, and stopping the Line 3 pipeline and other detrimental fossil fuel infrastructure.

Isra Hirsi, a sophomore at South, was one of 4 student speakers at the event. “I wanted to speak because I feel like my voice is pretty important, I feel like everyone’s voice is important. I’ve been working with Minnesota Can’t Wait for a few months now, and I feel like this issue’s really important and I really care about it,” Hirsi said.

In her speech, Hirsi highlighted the fact that climate change affects more than just nature. “I’ve learned that climate change threatens far more than our environment. It threatens to exacerbate poverty, increase diseases, and destabilize societies. Climate change threatens my future if we didn’t do anything,” Hirsi said.

She also spoke about the maximum temperature increase set by the UN of 1.5 degrees celsius, and the year we are projected to exceed it: 2030. “My 6 year old sister is supposed to graduate in 2030 from high school. At that time, she is supposed to have her whole future ahead of her. But if we don’t do anything, her future will be doomed.”

Other speakers included students from Roosevelt High School, Shoreview, and Grand Marais in Northern Minnesota. They addressed how they personally felt impacted by climate change and mentioned already occurring effects, including warming winters, California wildfires, and other natural disasters.

Although not all students who attended spoke, everyone had reasons they were passionate about being there. “We’re already so quickly and exponentially losing things that should be like a normal part of life, like cold winters, and warm summers…I just think it’s important that everyone realizes that it’s gonna affect everybody, and that if we don’t do something now, you won’t have a future, at least one that you like,” said Tona Ratigan Green, a freshman at South.

Following the speeches, students had an opportunity to discuss these issues with Walz. In his initial response, Walz emphasized how much he cares about climate change and supporting the youth, stating that, “we ran unabashedly that climate change will kill the planet and stop our futures. We must act boldly to move forward.” While he refrained from committing to anything before consulting his staff, Walz indicated his optimism for future climate legislation nationwide. “We’re at that tipping point. It’s close, we’re hopeful… it’s becoming much more crucial to move quickly,” he said.

Students were encouraged by this response, but they were still not fully satisfied without concrete action. “What can we do to follow up with all of you on this? Because we want to make sure that this is going to happen,” asked Maddy Fernands, a sophomore from Edina High School. Walz expressed that he would prioritize following up.

However, MN Can’t Wait won’t just be following up with Walz. Their other plans include introducing the Minnesota Green New Deal bill in February, organizing a “Youth Climate Justice Summit” to lobby legislators about the Green New Deal and the Line 3 pipeline, and to meet with Walz again highlighting the importance of his role in stopping Line 3.