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International Day Of Climate Rallies Draws Hundreds From Rogue Valley High Schools

Photo of students with banner on sidewalk.
Erik Neumann / JPR
Students from Ashland High School marched during the global climate strike on Friday.

Hundreds of high schoolers from throughout the Rogue Valley left school on Friday to demand political action to address climate change. Marches took place in Ashland, Medford, Grants Pass and half a dozen other small towns south to Redding.  

The local marches were part of a world-wide day of activism by young people showing their concern for human-caused climate change ahead of Monday’s United Nations climate summit in New York City.

“Every summer California burns with more intensity. Every year 500-year floods become more and more normalized. We are not waiting for climate change to come, it’s here,” said Jo Spurgeon, a senior at St. Mary’s high school in Medford and an organizer of Friday’s protest in Medford.

Image of students chanting with signs.
Credit Erik Neumann / JPR
Students from St. Mary's, North and South Medford High Schools rallied on Friday to protest inaction in the face of climate change.

Around 150 students and community members gathered from St. Mary’s and North and South Medford High Schools. A walkout from Ashland High School to the downtown Plaza included nearly double that number.

Student’s signs read “There are no jobs on a dead planet,” “Future first,” and “Policy change, not climate change.”

While the slogans and chants were similar to those at other progressive protests, students pointed to specific climate justice goals in Oregon. Their requests included preventing the development of the Jordan Cove liquified natural gas project pipeline and encouraging elected officials to sign on to the “Oregon Green New Deal,” a set of environmental goals including reductions in fossil fuel use, promotion of renewable energy, and protection for communities already affected by climate change.

“We want to put pressure on [Governor] Kate Brown and really emphasize climate and really make it the forefront of her political policy,” Spurgeon said.

Image of a crowd of protesters in downtown Ashland.
Credit Erik Neumann / JPR
The climate strike in Ashland drew hundreds of students and adults on Friday.

Owen Gramley was also participating from St. Mary’s high school in Medford. He said politics in the area lean conservative, but that their pressure was starting to translate to action by politicians.

“There’s not too much civic activism, but I think young people are changing that,” Gramley said. “It seems like a pretty generational change to me.”

Erik Neumann is JPR's news director. He earned a master's degree from the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism and joined JPR as a reporter in 2019 after working at NPR member station KUER in Salt Lake City.