Sixteen-year-old Swedish climate change activist Greta Thunberg has taken the world by storm with her earnest and direct message about climate change and the fate of our planet. She has inspired legions of adults and students alike, including one particular 5th grade student at Basalt Middle School, who is organizing his own Climate Change March and Rally in downtown Basalt on Sept. 27. Although the global climate strike inspired by Thunberg kicked off on Sept. 20, Fox-Rubin decided to hold his event a week later.
“I was surprised that it took way longer than I expected to do each part,” Fox-Rubin says. “I thought it would be flyers, boom done, applications, boom done, having people speak, boom done. Actually though, it took time to do each step. I’m glad I didn’t do it last Friday because that would have been way too soon.”
Instead, Fox-Rubin invites his peers and their concerned adults to join him on Sept. 27 from 3:30 to 5 p.m. Amidst the hype of Friday’s homecoming events, Fox-Rubin will march from Basalt Middle School to Lions Park, where speakers who have applied to him to speak in advance can take to the stage and share their thoughts on climate change.
Fox-Rubin has known about climate change for some time now. His father has spent most of his career working on technical and political solutions to climate change. Like many, however, Oliver didn’t know what he personally could do until he listened to a climate town hall for Democratic presidential candidates on Sept. 4 and learned about the forthcoming global climate strike.
"When I heard that, I was thinking, ‘wow! This is awesome! I want to do this!’ “ he says. “The topic is important to me because I am really worried that we only have 11 years before we reach the ‘point of no return’ on climate change, and yet no one who has a lot of power seems to do anything about it.”
Although he confesses he’s a little nervous about planning a public event on a topic that can be divisive and descend into vitriolic rhetoric, he welcomes anyone to attend, whether they believe in climate change or not, Ultimately, respectful and thoughtful dialogue encourages more thinking on the subject. He especially hopes students of all ages will join him.
“We’re the ones who are going to need to live with the consequences,” he says. “I hope people of all different identities come because we all need to work together.”
His mother, Julie Fox-Rubin, admits that her son’s project has been one of the most inspiring but also challenging things she’s navigated as a parent.
“It has been inspiring to watch his commitment, his sense of his own power to change things, and his incredible courage,” she says. “And it has been challenging to have good judgment about when it makes sense to offer guidance and when it makes more sense to hold my tongue and support him doing things his own way. But I know the latter is how real learning and growth occur.”
Her son has learned plenty already about the process of organizing an event of this nature. With a maturity well beyond his years, he’s reached out to the town of Basalt, his principal, the Basalt police department, and other adults and students for support and suggestions as well.
“A lot of the time, kids are like, ‘we’re not powerful enough. We’re just kids, we can’t do anything,’ but that’s not true,” he says. “If you are passionate about something, then you should do everything you can to make that dream a reality.”
Most of all, Fox-Rubin hopes that by putting on a climate change event and inviting others, he’ll keep the issue of climate change in the forefront of their minds and focus.
“I want people to really start caring about this and not have it be a thing in the back of their minds that they don’t pay attention to,” he says. “I want people to look for action instead of just being hopeful, like Greta said. And then and only then, hope will come.”