Spears, Benevento-Zahner hold strikes for climate change recognition

Sid Tandel, Editor

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The week of Sept. 20 marked the record for over 7.6 million people marching the streets to take action for climate change. Junior Silas Benevento-Zahner and senior Spencer Spears, along with the help of other local community members, helped lead a local climate strike to raise awareness of climate change. The strikes have been held downtown and will continue to be held in Court Square. Benevento-Zahner had his first interaction with climate strikes through connections with his father and attended the last two strike with plans to continue.

“[Overall,] the point of these climate strikes is to give local law makers the push they need to take action to make laws to help climate change,” Benevento-Zahner said.  

“Two weeks ago [Benevento-Zahner and I] met at Black Sheep Coffee with some students from James Madison University and we gathered to collaborate some ideas about a climate strike in Harrisonburg,” Spears said. 

Spears feels these strikes will help lead to better recognition for this global issue through disruptions in the workplace and school. 

“I think these first few climate strikes are a really good starting point for [Silas and myself,] and I think that it was really helpful that we were involved with people from other organizations and other universities because it helped us all come together. Again, I feel like this was a really good starting point [for the strikes], but I definitely do think there’s more we can do, and spreading the word about these strikes is a really good way to raise awareness about this issue,” Spears said. 

During the Sept. 20 climate strike, Benevento-Zahner gave a speech about how climate change has affected his life. 

“Over the summer, I went to the Dominican Republic and I met this lady, and as custom in the Dominican Republic you are offered food, but she couldn’t offer us anything because they had such a heavy drought because of climate change,” Benevento-Zahner said. 

Although Benevento-Zahner is against pursuing these climate strikes his whole life, he is prepared to help make a change and will continue as long as it takes. 

“I don’t want to have to follow [climate strikes] my whole life,” Benevento-Zahner said. “At some point I hope that local law enforcement eventually meets our demands and needs for a change, but if this is never the case I will continue to fight for our future. I’m really scared for our future and we need to fight for a change.”

Benevento-Zahner feels everyone’s voice should be heard. These strikes welcome anyone who would like to give a speech about global warming and climate change as well as those who would simply like to support.

“If students didn’t come because they felt their voice wasn’t going to be heard, we can look at history and see that striking in the past and protesting does have an impact. It might be in a small way, but these strikes create a societal shift that then changes on a big scale which is what we need,” Benevento-Zahner said.  

Spears offers advice for students who are uncertain of what they can do to help prevent climate change.

“Little things like riding the bus to school instead of driving, eating less red meat, biking rather than driving and, in general, spreading awareness can make a significant impact. If everyone did five little things a day to change their living style to better fit the needs of climate change, that would make a huge difference,” Spears said. “Just because you’re doing something small, doesn’t mean you can’t make a difference.”

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