A Strike

For Them

How a mom helped the youngest Missoulians strike for the climate

Winona Bateman’s daughter shouldn’t need to learn how to spell the word “global” yet. But as she proudly shows her mother the posters she made in first grade, she explains that she already knows how to spell it, and what it means. 

Six-year-old Ellis Bateman is just one of an estimated 4 million participants in the Global Climate Strike taking place this week. The strike began on Friday, when hundreds of Missoula students walked out of school to draw attention to the lack of climate change education in the education system, and will continue through the week in conjunction with similar strikes worldwide. 

Ellis was too young to leave school on her own, so her mother made it happen. 

Written and photographed by Sara Diggins

Winona Bateman wanted to give families and younger children a chance to participate. She believes that the climate is the No. 1 threat families and their futures.

“Our children are calling us, their futures are calling to us,” Bateman said. “This is the moment when students no longer stand alone and the climate movement transforms into a multi-generational, unstoppable force for change.” 

She spent the month of September planning the Families Strike For Our Future rally, coordinating with groups that wanted to be involved, getting permission to use the courthouse lawn, creating an art area for the youngest kids, getting the word out to the local middle schools and ensuring they would have a PA system and a place to plug it in. 

The coordination among the various groups was the most challenging part, Bateman explained. But in the end, it all worked out just fine. 

“I heard from different parents, ‘My son or daughter really wants to participate. What can they do? Can they have a voice? Can they help plan something?’” Bateman said. 

She engaged those younger students, helping middle schoolers at the Missoula International School (MIS) make signs for the rally and encouraging them to think about their climate story.

Several of them were inspired to share their climate stories at the rally.

Bateman met the middle schoolers in front of MIS, her daughter tucked into her bike trailer. Together they marched through Greenough Park, across the railroad, and down Pine Street to the courthouse. They were soon joined at the Families Strike For Our Future rally by more than 150 fellow climate-concerned families. 

Bateman opened the rally, but handed the mic to the kids soon after, letting them run the show. Several shared their climate stories and political concerns. Some sang songs including an altered version Bob Dylan’s "Blowing in the Wind."

“I feel really proud of all students,” Bateman said. “There was space for everyone to participate in the day, and that’s what we need.” 

 © 2020 by Sara Diggins.