Young Easthampton climate activist scores royal audience at Celtics game

By EMILY THURLOW

Staff Writer

Published: 12-07-2022 10:11 AM

BOSTON — When 15-year-old Ollie Perrault found herself on the basketball court at the TD Garden, she seized an opportunity she’d never thought she’d have, and she took her shot.

And though the Easthampton climate activist wasn’t trying to score any actual baskets, she was able to get some airtime for her cause when she met Gov.-elect Maura Healey and Prince William and Princess Kate of Wales.

“It was my first time at a basketball game and it was really fun on so many levels,” Perrault said. “It all happened so fast.”

The city teenager received a call from one of her mentors from Mass Audubon on Friday, Nov. 25, asking if she could be in Boston on Wednesday, as she’d nominated Perrault for an award.

“It’s so well-deserved,” said Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary Education Coordinator Brittany Gutermuth. “She does everything she can to bring equitable climate action and climate justice to the forefront. I’m incredibly proud of her.”

Perrault — the founder of Youth Climate Action NOW, which elevates the voices of young people and adds them to the climate conversation — received the Celtics’ “Heroes Among Us” award on Wednesday, Nov. 30. Healey presented Perrault with the award at center court.

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“The climate crisis is both our greatest risk and our greatest opportunity — we must act now to protect the future of our planet and future generations to come,” Healey said in a statement. “I am inspired by climate activists like Ollie who are using their voices to create change, hold leaders accountable, and get more young people involved in the fight for environmental justice.”

Seated with Healey at the game were Prince William and Princess Kate, who were in Boston to present the Earthshot Prize awards, a global challenge that awards $1.2 million each to five winners for their contributions to solutions to climate change and environmental issues from 2021 to 2030.

Perrault met the royal couple courtside.

“I don’t think I was necessarily supposed to talk to them, but I just started to talk about my work because I know how passionate they both are about addressing climate change in our community … and I just launched into it,” Perrault said with a chuckle. “They were so supportive and interested.”

Perrault highlighted her work with Youth Climate Action Now, which launched in October of last year, as well as her work as a Mass Audubon youth climate leader. She spoke of how powerful it is to see youth across the world skipping school and demanding action, encouraging world leaders to think bigger for change on a societal level.

“Oftentimes the narrative when it comes to youth leadership is that our youngness is an obstacle to overcome — we’re not scientists or politicians, we’re just kids. In reality, I’ve found that young people are so undeniably powerful. We’re going to be agents of change,” she said.

Mayor Nicole LaChapelle lauded Perrault’s efforts and called her work “inspirational.”

“Her leadership is an urgent notice to mitigate the all but certain impacts of a warming Earth,” LaChapelle said.

Perrault has seen the effects of climate change firsthand, as her parents own Mountain View Farm in Easthampton. Her experience on the farm, she says, has played a big role in her activism.

From heavy rainfall and damaging storms to wide-scale droughts, keeping up with the extreme weather has proven challenging.

“There have been so many record-breaking weather events that we’re having trouble adapting to it,” she said.

“We’ve grown up with anger that the generations before us allowed it to get this bad and ignored science. That anger is an incredibly powerful tool we’ll use to combat climate change and reach as many people as possible and empower them to use their voices.”

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