Breckenridge protest symbolizes lives lost to climate change |

Breckenridge protest symbolizes lives lost to climate change

Members of the Summit Sustainability Club and Extinction Rebellion place shoes Monday, Dec. 14, at the Blue River Plaza in Breckenridge as part of a climate demonstration.
Photo by Taylor Sienkiewicz /

Attendees of a climate change protest in Breckenridge on Monday Dec. 14, stood behind pairs of shoes to symbolize 73 climate-change-related deaths in Colorado.

Members of a Colorado Mountain College sustainability group held signs and chanted, “No coal, no oil, keep our carbon in the soil” between speeches from students and professors.

The inspiration for the shoes was a 2018 brief from the Natural Resources Defense Council stating that “high smog and particle pollution levels contributed to an estimated 73 excess deaths and 153 excess illnesses in Colorado between 2013 and 2015.”

The protest was organized by Julia Whinston, who is part of the Summit Sustainability Club, which was formed last December and also serves as a branch of the international group Extinction Rebellion.

“We started organizing some protests just to bring awareness; that was the whole intention behind the sustainability club and our climate activism,” Whinston said. “Because in Summit County, I know a lot of people who are very sustainable, and I know a lot of people who think they’re very sustainable. And there are always areas where we all can improve and become more aware, especially in a county like this where there’s so much potential for sustainability and green climate action.”

Whinston said sustainability understandably has taken a back seat amid the pandemic, putting the group’s protests on hold. But she said she hopes this protest reminds people that there are still ways to bring awareness to the climate crisis and be more sustainable even in a pandemic. Whinston said she believes it’s important that visitors see climate demonstrations in Summit County so they can hopefully take some environmental knowledge or inspiration back home.

“Social justice is climate justice, and it’s important that we use both to support each other because people of color are disproportionately affected by the climate crisis,” Whinston said. “And it’s important that we acknowledge that and that we’re educating and we’re aware of the ways that we can be more equal, and one of the ways that we can be more equal is by pushing for a more sustainable system.”

Ugne Kaselas, who gave a speech at the protest, said she is part of the sustainability club because she finds her culture in sustainability and environmental awareness. She said the group’s visibility has increased through efforts like its auction for Australian Bushfire Relief and other climate protests, which have furthered its goal of bringing awareness to climate issues.

Kaselas said she was inspired to participate in environmental activism when she saw forestland in her home country degraded.

“Our pride and joy was our massive woods and untouched lakes,” Kaselas said. “And by the time I was moving out of Lithuania, I saw the news, it was all over that we are selling our wood pulp, we are renting out our lands and we are drastically increasing ecotourism in forms of hunting to get our country out of debt. And I really thought our nature was more valuable than trying to keep up with the industry. I was 12 years old, and I couldn’t say that in words, but I was pretty sad.”

Colorado Mountain College professor Andy Schoeneman attended the protest and called the involvement of young people in climate activism as “invaluable” but said it’s important for people of all ages to participate.

Schoeneman, who teaches environmental ethics and introduction to philosophy at the community college, said he tries to make his philosophy course relevant to the issues of today, including environmentalism. He said he is hopeful the Biden administration will take steps to address climate change with a focus on renewable energy.

Read about the protest here:

Posted by Summit Daily News onMonday, December 14, 2020

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