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Meet the High School Students Behind Boise's Youth Climate Strike


At 16 and 18 years old, respectively, Boise high school students Liam Neupert and Elise Malterre have already put more thought into their environmental impact than many adults.

Neupert, a junior at the local student-directed high school One Stone, sticks to a vegan diet, carries his own reusable silverware and tries to grocery shop without plastic, all with an eye toward his carbon footprint. Malterre, a senior at the same school, has traveled worldwide and participated in Model United Nations conferences to study environmental health. They're both working toward a greener future, but they said looming over these positive changes is a global problem: climate change. And it's an issue that isn't getting much traction at the Idaho Statehouse.

"We were just at the informational hearing about climate change in Idaho the other day, and it's overwhelmingly frustrating to listen to our legislators asking questions about climate change," said Malterre. "Like, someone asked if climate change meant that the planet was warming or cooling after we'd watched a time-lapse [video] about the planet warming, like over 100 years turning completely orange. And then that question was asked a few minutes later."

To raise awareness for those issues and incite movement on environmental issues at a governmental level, Neupert spearheaded the organization of a Boise Youth Climate Strike that will take place on the Idaho Statehouse steps Friday, March 15, from 10 a.m.-noon. The strike is part of a global movement under the umbrella of Fridays for Future, an initiative started by 15-year-old Swedish student Greta Thunberg. Beginning in August 2018, Thunberg has camped out in front of the Swedish parliament every Friday and will continue to do so, the Fridays for Future website reads, "until the Swedish policies provided a safe pathway well under [2 degrees Celsius], i.e. in line with the Paris agreement."

Students all over the world have followed suit, including Neupert, Malterre and their friends, who have made the pilgrimage to the Idaho Statehouse steps with cardboard signs every Friday for the last three weeks. Fridays for Future has declared a Global Climate Strike for Future on March 15, making Neupert and Matlerre's strike one of 1,325 gatherings in 98 countries as of last night, according to a tweet from Thunberg.

The March 15 strike in Boise, which Neupert organized in just a few weeks with help from a national Youth Climate Strike organization, will include six student speakers (Malterre and Neupert among them) discussing topics from the inherent value of nature to the impacts of waste and fast fashion, and Neupert said Rep. Ilana Rubel (D-Boise) has also expressed interest in speaking. After the talks, there will be materials provided for attendees to write letters and postcards to legislators, urging action on climate change initiatives like The Green New Deal, which calls for investments in green businesses and jobs, and a shift to 100 percent clean energy nationwide by 2030. They will also provide scripts for phone calls and text messages for those looking to reach out. Though the strike has the word youth in its name, people of all ages are welcome to attend.

"It's going beyond just a strike or a walkout for one day," said Malterre. "That's not going to do much. We're going to get attention but then, what's next? We have to follow through with these demands that we're making."

She added that while The Green New Deal is an ideal, she'd be happy if the Friday strike kicked off even baby steps in its direction.

"They're very lofty goals that I think are so important, but what I'm looking for in our local legislators are reasonable and attainable goals on a local level that we can implement in Idaho now," she said.

So far Malterre and Neupert and have spread the word on the strike primarily through Instagram, and the account they created to promote the event (@climatestrikeid) has more than 400 followers. Neupert said he hopes at least half that number will show up at the Statehouse March 15, though there's no way to know for sure.

"I have no idea what to expect," he said.