Big Sky High School Students to Explore Capitalism, Climate with Symposium at UM

May 31, 2017

MISSOULA – A passionate student group from Missoula Big Sky High School, in collaboration with the University of Montana, will host a symposium to critique capitalism and catalyze global movement to end climate change Monday through Friday, June 12-16, at UM’s Phyllis J. Washington Education Center.

The student group, Free Us from Climate Chaos, has spent the past year organizing Bring Your Own Brain: A Symposium to Free Us from Climate Chaos. The symposium is free and open to the public, but registration is requested online at http://www.freeusfromclimatechaos.org/sign-up.html.

The high school students began planning the event a year ago, meeting on Sundays weekly throughout the summer and school year.

“We feel strongly that what we’re exploring and what we’re planning goes way beyond academics, and so organizing the event required us to go beyond the curriculum and the school day, too,” said Big Sky senior Everett Bayer.

The symposium will introduce the concept of Critical Thinking Communities. Organizers implore participants to “bring your own brain” and engage with renowned intellectuals, including:

  • Henry Giroux, scholar and cultural critic, author of numerous books, including “America at War with Itself.”
  • Kate Raworth, Oxford University’s Environmental Change Institute, renegade economist and author of “Doughnut Economics.”
  • George Monbiot, columnist for The Guardian, environmental and political activist, author of “How Did We Get Into This Mess?: Politics, Equality, Nature.”
  • Bill McKibben, environmentalist, author and journalist. Leader of anti-carbon campaign group 350.org.
  • Derrick Jensen, author and radical environmentalist, author of “Deep Green Resistance: Strategy to Save the Planet” and “Endgame.”
  • Steve Running, UM ecology professor who shared the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007 as a chapter lead author for the fourth assessment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. 
  • John Foran, sociologist/professor researching global climate justice at University of California, Santa Barbara.

The guest speakers will encourage attendants to retreat from the urgency of reaction and to instead ask critical questions before deciding on a direction for the future.

“Free Us from Climate Chaos is not convinced that critical thinking is a fundamental component of our society and culture,” Bayer said. “Our student group sees the lack of critique in environmental activism as a major flaw, which has stopped the serious changes we need to save our planet. We cannot continue to defend or reform capitalism. It is not compatible with justice. We need to find a new solution.”

Historian, social critic and political activist Noam Chomsky has served as a mentor to the students throughout the planning process.

“It has been a great personal privilege for me to be able to participate in the remarkable initiatives of the Big Sky High School students to address the very severe and imminent threats posed by climate change,” Chomsky said. “It is by now quite clear that unless dedicated efforts are undertaken, without delay, the consequences may be dire.”

Chomsky cites prominent climate scientist James Hansen’s warning “that we’re in danger of handing young people a situation that’s out of their control.”

“It is therefore inspiring to see the efforts and achievements of the Big Sky students in taking the lead in confronting the existential crisis that lies ahead and acting to overcome it,” he said.

The symposium will be globally broadcast on Big Sky High School’s channel on the National Federation of State High School Associations Network at http://www.nfhsnetwork.com/schools/big-sky-high-school-missoula-mt, which also will include the broadcast schedule.

For more information call Bayer at 406-546-8716 or email freeusfromclimatechoas@gmail.com.

Contact: Everett Bayer, Big Sky High School senior, Free Us from Climate Chaos spokesperson, 406-546-8716, freeusfromclimatechaos@gmail.com.