Thurston County Youth 'Die' at Council Meeting to Protest Lack of Action on Climate Change


Five members of the Thurston Youth Climate Coalition fell dramatically to the ground at Lacey City Council on Thursday, all of them wanting to protest what they see as a lack of local action to fight climate change.

It was quite a display. As Avanti High School student and coalition member Elsie Sabel rattled off some sobering figures about climate change's effect on the planet, her fellow members fell one by one to the floor as part of the die-in.

Sabel, citing data from the National Academy of Sciences and the World Health Organization, spelled out a grim scenario.

Sea-level rise by the year 2100 is expected to displace 2.5 percent of the world's population, she told the council, plus there's the impact on farming and raising crops, which could result in 500,000 people dying from food insecurity.

The impact of climate change is estimated to kill 5 million people between 2030 and 2050 and another 83 million by 2100, Sabel said.

"When youth imagine our future this is what we have to look forward to," she said.

The group acknowledges that Thurston Climate Mitigation Plans have been approved by local governments throughout the county, including in Lacey, but now they have to be implemented.

"Passage means nothing if you take no step toward implementation," Sabel said.

After Sabel spoke, she joined her fellow members on the ground. Lacey City Council typically doesn't hear much public comment at its meetings, but Thursday was an exception as several people spoke for about 30 minutes. And yet the coalition members remained motionless on the floor throughout all of it.

Resident Lynn Fitz-Hugh, who was recently critical of proposed changes to Lacey's tree ordinance, spoke in solidarity with the students.

"They are here desperately saying to you that their lives depend on what you do," she said. Fitz-Hugh spoke for about a minute, then used her final two minutes of public comment by calling for a moment of reflection.

After the meeting, Lacey Mayor Andy Ryder acknowledged that he, too, is more than ready to get to work on fighting climate change.

"I'm tired of the planning and want to see action," he said.

But he also defended what the city has done so far to address climate change. He said the city was one of the first to adopt a climate change reduction plan into the city's comprehensive plan.

And he pointed to recent federal legislation that could mean a lot for fighting climate change. That legislation is the Inflation Reduction Act, a nearly $740 billion bill passed by Congress, more than half of which is devoted to energy and climate change.

"There's so much money in this plan I think it can be transformational," said Ryder, but he added the federal government needs to work on its messaging and information.

"We need to know how to access the money and how the average person can use it," he said.