Students say the Governor’s fossil-fuel agenda sacrifices their future
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Students and youth organizers from across Utah disrupted the Governor’s Energy Summit on Thursday. Twenty minutes into the Governor’s policy discussion with Secretary of Energy Rick Perry, the young activists’ phone alarms collectively sounded. The students unfolded large banners that read “Your Time is Up, Climate Action Now” and “Invest in Our Future, Not Climate Chaos.” Some youth held clocks with 11 years painted in the center—the time period the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says society must transition to renewable energy to prevent climate catastrophe.
Many of the summit’s keynote speakers represent the fossil fuel industry, and tickets were prohibitively expensive to the general public. The Governor’s Energy Plan through 2020 centers an all-of-the-above energy strategy, making young organizers feel that Herbert’s plan sacrifices their future.
“What Governor Herbert touts as a diverse energy portfolio is really just a dishonest attempt to continue bolstering fossil fuel economies,” said Eliza Van Dyk, Westminster student and organizer with Wasatch Rising Tide. “As young people, we feel our please for a sustainable future are being ignored or met with false solutions. Events like the Governor’s Energy Summit, which are inaccessible to most of the public, further exemplify that Herbert’s energy policy is not in the best interest of the people, but rather the fossil fuel elites who continue to sacrifice our future.”
Young people stood in front of the stage peacefully singing for five minutes before being forced out by security. As they walked out of the room, they sang “We’re gonna rise up, rise up til it’s won.”
This action follows a wave of youth-led climate actions. In March, Utah youth participated in the international climate strike with millions of young people around the world. They also held a sit-in at Governor Herbert’s office and a die-in at the School Institutional Trust Land Administration office to demand an end to oil and gas drilling across the state. Now, youth are coordinating with a larger coalition of groups across Utah on a People’s Energy Movement—a grassroots movement for a just transition to a renewable, equitable economy.
“A just transition is the only solution to protecting our futures as young people, students, and our neighbors in rural Utah,” said Olivia Juarez, Latinx Organizer with Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance. “The governors and other speakers feign ‘energy innovation’ as long as they keep fossil fuels on the table. It’s not an option when imminent climate chaos is threatening our futures, especially communities living on the front lines of industry and disaster.”