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Young Mainers call for change during Youth Day of Action

Students gathered outside the State House in Augusta Thursday to convivence lawmakers to pass bills to help the climate and the environment.

AUGUSTA, Maine — The voices of younger Mainers echoed around the grounds of the State House in Augusta on Thursday.

Roughly 150 students representing multiple organizations gathered with legislators and other activists for the annual Youth Day of Action. Some Maine teachers even brought their students to the state's capital for the event.

“It’s always nice to see such [an] amazing turnout," Cole Cochrane, policy director of Maine Youth Action, said.

Speakers at the rally addressed a number of proposed bills that look to help the Maine's environment and climate.

“The crowds have gotten bigger every year," Elise Hartill of Maine Youth for Climate Justice said about the event. “[But] our demands kind of stay the same.”

During this year's event, advocates spoke on four different topics that all tie back to climate change.

There is another push in Augusta to grant indigenous tribes sovereignty and to be recognized like all other federal tribes across the nation. Advocates called on lawmakers to grant the tribes that right so they can hunt and fish on their land with a focus on sustainability.

Credit: NCM

Director of Policy for the Maine Environmental Education Association Amara Ifeji addressed the crowd Thursday to speak about proving more outdoor educational opportunities for Maine students. Ifeji said she wants to give all kids, specifically those of color, the opportunity to experience our state's natural beauty.

“If we do not connect to the natural world, then how can we be environmental stewards? How can we be climate justice activists?" Ifeji said.

There is a proposed bill that would grant some schools funding for a new outdoor education program for students in fourth through eighth grades.

“So they can connect to the natural world and continue to protect it as a result," Ifeji said.

Cochrane and Luke Sekera-Flanders said they've been youth organizers for years and have seen a lot more Mainers their age join the movement to advocate for climate action.

Credit: NCM

Cochrane spoke at the rally about the future of transportation in Maine. According to the state's Climate Action Plan, transportation is the leading cause of carbon emissions in our state.

“I think it’s about changing our communities, promoting equity and sustainability and you just don’t get that by just electrifying vehicles," he added.

Sekera-Flanders spoke on the topic of preserving clean drinking water and making sure all Mainers have proper access to it.

“Water is life. Can’t put it much simpler than that," he said. “We need policies that are grounded in scientific reality.”

After the rally, younger Mainers were able to go into the State House to speak with their representatives about potential legislation that could benefit the state's climate.

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