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  • Over 400 of Portland’s middle school students stand with Paris Climate Change Conference for action now

    Students from King Middle School at Portland City Hall on December 4, 2015, making a stand to encourage people to take action personally against climate change. Photo by Portland Citycouncilor Jon Hinck.

    By Ramona du Houx

    Cars honked and people waved support for over 400 students from King Middle School, city officials, members of 350.org, and concerned citizens when they marched to Portland City Hall on December 4, 2015. There they held a rally to promote climate change awareness and urge people to make changes to reduce waste, pollution and carbon emissions.

    “Climate Change is not a debate—it’s happening now,” said an impassioned student driving the reality home that this generation will experience the effects of the world’s climate changing in devastating ways if we don’t take action now.

    The students have been studying climate change issues, and the march/rally was part of their assignment.

    “The kids have it right on climate. The rest of us should follow their lead and get on the job of making our energy system clean and renewable,” said City Councilor Jon Hinck.

    Speakers called for immediate action and told the audience they can start recycling, composting, walking or biking instead of driving, and switching out traditional light bulbs to low-energy alternatives. The students point: everyone can make a difference if we all act.

     “We are not here to celebrate, but to motivate,” said eighth-grader Siri Pierce at City Hall. “We know this will be a more serious problem in the future, so why not start fighting now?”

    The march coincided with the United Nations climate talks in Paris, which hopefully will culminate with a legal global treaty amongst the 191 countries taking part in the talks.

    The last time a global climate treaty was signed was in 1997 with the Kyoto Protocol. But that agreement only required wealthy countries to reduce carbon emissions.  This time developing and emerging nations are poised to sign on, making this agreement truly global.

    Many nations have come to understand climate change technologies can help grow economies. Alternative energy is among the industries in Maine that show the most potential for job growth, according to a state report commissioned by the Maine Technology Institute in 2013 to identify fast-growing, technology-intensive industries that could yield significant economic growth.

    Businesses that work in alternative energy are a part of the state’s fastest-growing sectors, according to the report. The sector experienced job gains in Maine of 11.9 percent, from 2007 to 2012, and is predicted to grow by 4.7 percent through 2022, beating a forecasted U.S. growth rate of 2.3 percent.

    “I am very motivated — and you are my motivation,” Mayor Michael Brennan told the students as he gave them a key to the city.

     Portland is currently adding solar panels to city buildings. The effort is part of the city’s climate action plans that are being currently implemented across all aspects of its operations from transportation and land use planning, to vehicle policies and fuel usage.