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Prairie Hill students urge lawmakers to take action on climate change
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Prairie Hill students urge lawmakers to take action on climate change

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Resolution to acknowledge climate change

Prairie Hill Learning Center sixth-grader Tela Hamric speaks at a news conference for a legislative resolution drafted by students and introduced by Omaha Sen. Rick Kolowski calling on the Legislature to acknowledge the effects of climate change and take steps to address it.

Like millions of other young people around the world, students from Prairie Hill Learning Center have regularly stood vigil at the place where their elected leaders make laws, asking them to think about the future.

They've asked lawmakers to consider how rising global temperatures will contribute to more intense flooding like Nebraska experienced in 2019, or the wildfires that continue to devastate Australia.

They've asked them to consider rising sea levels and disruptions to agriculture and the extinction of thousands of plant and animal species across the planet.

The students at Prairie Hill said they wanted to do more than stand on the Capitol steps to draw attention to the effects of climate change, however.

The middle-school students started researching the issue in scientific journals and publications earlier this school year, committing their findings to writing and collaborating on a call to action.

Then, the students said, they found state senators who were willing to listen.

"We're the ones who are going to be coming up into the world affected by (climate change)," said Lane Albrecht, a seventh grader. "I think we need to make a stand."

Friday, Sen. Rick Kolowski and other senators from Omaha and Lincoln introduced a resolution using language drafted by the students at the private school near Roca.

The resolution says state lawmakers acknowledge "we are in the midst of an anthropogenic climate and ecological crisis" and that the "Legislature has a moral obligation to take steps to combat the climate and ecological crisis."

Kolowski, who will finish his second term in the Legislature this year, said his generation and leaders across the country have failed to address climate change in a meaningful way.

The former educator said he was proud to bring the resolution on the students' behalf.

"It is their vision of the future that truly matters," he said.

Other lawmakers agreed. Sen. Megan Hunt said it was up to current elected leaders to act on behalf of the future.

"We're the ones who are letting them down," Hunt said. "It's because of their strength and their courage and willingness to remind us who we serve that we're here today with this resolution."

Fellow Omaha Sen. John McCollister asked what kind of future those now in power wanted to leave for their descendants to experience.

"Do we want a world with rising tides, greater weather variation and severity, the compelled migration of people suffering disasters, or a world where countless species of plants and animals are erased from the face of the earth?" McCollister asked. "Not me."

Lincoln Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks, whose bill (LB283) calling for the University of Nebraska to develop an evidence-based, data-driven strategic plan for the state to mitigate the impacts of climate change remains stuck in the Legislature's Executive Board, said the time to act on behalf of Nebraskans is now.

Critics of the plan have asked Pansing Brooks what Nebraskans might think of the plan, she said.

"I know what the people of Nebraska are going to think as they watch the floods and the fires in Australia," Pansing Brooks said. "They are going to think 'Thank god they finally acted.'"

And Sen. Ernie Chambers, the oldest member of the Legislature, said senators should listen to the youth on issues involving the future.

"They have the wisdom to understand at this young age that it's one thing to give fine arguments, but sometimes action is needed," Chambers said. "Today, the only action that can be given is what they're doing here, and they are willing to do it."

Tela Hamric, a sixth grader at Prairie Hill, said the class was excited to have its resolution introduced in the Legislature, but added "there is so much work to be done."

The class will continue seeking more senators to sign on to the resolution and plans to testify about the urgency of climate change before legislative committees this year, Hamric said.

"We've come far, but we're not quite far enough yet," she said.

Reach the writer at 402-473-7120 or cdunker@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @ChrisDunkerLJS

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