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Why I’m on Climate Strike in Iowa

The alarms are flashing, but humanity is not acting fast enough for the emergency at hand

Joining other youth leaders from around the world, this junior high school student from Iowa has this message: "No more excuses."   (Photo: Courtesy of the author)

IOWA CITY — The flash flood alarm signaled again last night.

This is the 9th week of my climate strike in Iowa City.  That’s nine weeks of not going to school on Friday from 11:50-4:05. I have been striking for real climate action at the Iowa City Public School Building because I wanted to start at the place where I spend eight hours a day of my life.   

All of my life I have heard and talked about climate change. When I was a little kid I was always hearing about coal mining, the reason coal mining is so bad, and how the coal companies strip-mined my family’s 200-year-old farm.  But that was the way things went where my family comes from in southern Illinois. It seemed hopeless.

But it wasn’t until Greta Thunberg started her climate strike in Sweden that I started to feel like things might change. She’s a 16-year old that has been striking every Friday for climate action — now in her 39th week! I was very inspired, seeing how much of a change in people's attitudes a 16-year old could make with her act of defiance. No more excuses.

It was time to do this in Iowa where I now live. Iowa may produce a lot of wind energy, but the truth is that greenhouse gas emissions in the increased by 3 percent last year. Historic flood is happening all over the state. Where is the urgency to deal with this?

During this time I learned about the IPCC requirements to have a habitable planet. It’s pretty clear.  We need to immediately cut CO2 emissions in half, and then we need to get to zero emissions by 2050.

So, I started my strike on March 15th, joining Greta and students from around the world. Other students have joined me. We have spoken at several school board and city council meetings.

On week five, NFL star Tim Dwight showed up, talking about how solar energy is so cheap and the function of solar panels. On week six, Iowa poet laureate Mary Swander came and read from one of her plays.

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The most catastrophic  thing that has happened in these weeks is the cyclone in Mozambique. It has destroyed so many communities.  We have record flooding in Iowa, but I know kids in Mozambique are paying a higher price for the flooding even though they haven’t produced a fraction of our CO2 emissions.

I strike because the IPCC report must be read by all adults, especially our leaders in the school district and city. My message to them: we have 11 years to cut emissions by 50% to have a habitable planet.

I want to have a future, and there is no sense of urgency about doing anything real about climate action in our Iowa City Community School District. Everyone knows it. Everyone knows how cheap solar is.

I will not stop striking until these demands are met:

  1. Solar on all school buildings in the district.

  2. A climate curriculum in all schools.

  3. And an overall 50% emissions cut by 2030.  

No more excuses.

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Massimo Paciotto Biggers

Massimo Paciotto Biggers is a 14-year-old junior high student in Iowa City, IA. 

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