Greta Thunberg, you’re not alone. The Swedish teenager whose climate strike went viral and put her and her cause before the United Nations has a younger counterpart in Columbia.

Her name is Emma Winter, and she’s organizing a climate march Sunday afternoon at the Boone County Courthouse plaza to raise awareness about global warming and to encourage environmentally friendly practices.

She’s a fourth-grader at Grant Elementary School.

Emma thinks everybody needs to play a part in creating a more sustainable climate for our planet, and that kids cannot rely solely on adults to make the necessary changes.

“We’re going to be around much longer, and so it’s easier for us to take action now so that later on when we’re adults, we’ll still help the Earth and then the next generation will, too,” Emma said. “And it’ll keep going.”

The 9-year-old has already demonstrated organizing prowess: She lined up local musicians Violet and the Undercurrents to entertain at the march, beginning at 1:45 p.m. Laura Wacker, the coordinator of Columbia’s Earth Day festival, will join Emma on the podium. After music and speeches, the march will take place, followed by a concluding performance.

Emma decided to organize the event after the May tornado that caused massive damage to nearby Jefferson City. Her parents initially were skeptical.

“It took us a couple of months to come around, but she was so adamant and stuck to it,” her mother, Ginny Ramseyer Winter, said. “This was something she wanted to see through.”

Now, they are all in.

Jeremy Winter, Emma’s dad, said the family has done research on global warming throughout the planning process for the march. That has inspired some changes at home.

“One thing I’ve noticed as a family is that this is a learning process,” he said. “There’s still things we can do better, and it’s about making those little changes.”

Some of the steps the Winters are taking include taking shorter showers, turning off lights and eating less beef each week, Emma said.

“And I think that’s Emma’s message,” her mom said. “That those little things add up.”

Another inspiration for Sunday’s event: the 2018 March for Our Lives, which Emma attended with her mom in Washington. The event for gun control advocates was driven by young people’s protests against school shootings. Ramseyer Winter said Emma told her she wanted to go because “kids’ lives are more important than the right to owning a gun.”

The speeches at March for Our Lives seemed to “really impact Emma at the time,” her mother said. Emma wants her upcoming March for Our Earth to leave an impression on others as well.

Participants can make signs on the day of the march using recycled materials like cardboard and bottle caps. To get more people involved, Violet Vonder Haar of Violet and the Undercurrents organized a youth chorus to help get more people involved. Emma’s 5-year-old brother, Jonathan, is one of the children in the chorus, along with some of her friends.

“I really support what (Emma) is doing,” Vonder Haar said. “Music is a reflection of what’s going on culturally.”

Violet and the Undercurrents are performing before and after the march. For the final song, a group of children will join the band to help perform.

“Everybody loves music, kids love music, and I think music can really help drive the message home,” Jeremy Winter said.

For Vonder Haar, the march is taking her back to her own youth. She said her own first public performance was at the age of 9 — just like Emma — at Columbia’s annual Earth Day festival.

“The future of this planet is probably one of the most important issues to me and has been,” Vonder Haar said. “It’s the only one we’ve got.”

  • I am an education reporter, studying magazine journalism. Reach me at erlcf7@mail.missouri.edu, or in the newsroom at 882-5700

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