Kalamazoo youth climate action group calls attention to endangered snowpeople

Editor's Note: The Voices of Youth Kalamazoo program is a collaboration between Southwest Michigan Second Wave and KYD Network, funded by the Stryker Johnston Foundation.

KALAMAZOO, MI — Where have all the snow people gone? Kalamazoo climate groups call for action.

On Friday, January 20, members of the Ardea Youth Climate Coalition and the Kalamazoo Chapter of Citizen's Climate Lobby, a Kalamazoo climate action group, met in Bronson Park to make snow people. After a week of intermittent school due to a blizzard and frigid temperatures, preceded by a no-snow December, being outside and with others was a welcome change.

Ardea Youth Climate Action Coalition: (left to right) Andie Reneau, Alex Fry, Alek Scarff, Wallace Tatara, Elliot Spoelstra, Mia Breznau, Georgia Smith, James Hunsinger“The snow wasn’t that great for packing, but we had a lot of fun supporting a cause we believe in," says Alex Fry, a member of Ardea and senior at Mattawan High School.

As the temperature hovered in the low 20s, several teens did their best to cobble together mini snow people in a variety of shapes, then donned them with signs that read "Carbon Fee. Save me!" and "I'm melting!"

"Here in the Midwest, making snowpeople is a quintessential part of childhood, and Kalamazoo youth are not ready to see that tradition end thanks to climate change," says Mia Breznau, a spokesperson for Ardea and senior at Mattawan High School. "So, even though our snow critters are currently endangered, we hoped to show through this protest that it’s not yet too late to save them, and the key to doing that is through governmental action, specifically by passing a carbon fee."

Students built mini snowpeople throughout Bronson Park and on the steps of City Hall.This event served as a local addition to CCL’s nationwide effort to increase awareness about climate change and the need for climate action (specifically, instituting a carbon fee, which is a proposed fee collected for the cost of burning fossil fuels) through fun, strategically placed snowperson protests.

Activist Mia Breznau holds a snowperson sign calling on government to price carbon, a vital step in addressing climate changing and safeguarding her future"We chose Bronson Park and the steps of City Hall mainly for two reasons," says Breznau. "They are highly visible to passersby, and we wanted to make a connection between the need for climate action and the role of government in creating that action."

As Ardea youth see it, institutions, especially the government, are guiding and mandating actions that impact climate. Breznau is quick to acknowledge that they see positive signs at both the county and the city level. "We're not trying to demonize our local government with this protest, just, again, making the connection between the need for action and government's role in that — and hopefully inspiring city officials to keep moving forward on sustainability.

Activists used signs to convey various messages on the urgency of climate action to the public."Ultimately, our main purpose in organizing this protest was to show people that even though we’ve got some snow right now, that doesn’t mean that climate change is absent," says Breznau. "2023 was the hottest year in history, and this winter’s unpredictable weather and polar vortexes are just further evidence of our warming, changing world."

Andie Reneau, Ardea member and senior at Gull Lake High School adds, “I hope that people see that kids now have taken the responsibility of bringing attention to the climate crisis for the sake of every living person and species (including snowpeople!).”

Students built mini snowpeople throughout Bronson Park and on the steps of City Hall.And while snowpeople may be the most obvious to suffer, snow, in fact, is vital for a thriving ecosystem and has many positive impacts on human health. To find out more, check out information from the National Snow and Ice Data Center.
Enjoy this story? Sign up for free solutions-based reporting in your inbox each week.

Read more articles by Theresa Coty O'Neil.

Theresa Coty O’Neil is the Managing Editor of Southwest Michigan Second Wave. As a longtime freelance writer, editor, and writing teacher, she has a passion for sharing the positive stories in Southwest Michigan and for mentoring young writers. She also serves as the Project Editor of the Faith in Action series and Project Lead for Battle Creek Voices of Youth.