Protesters at global climate strike. Photo by Ariel Hall
Inspired by the Swedish 16-year-old activist Greta Thunberg, young people and adults across the globe came together to protest the current climate crisis and world leaders’ lack of action. There was participation in over 1,700 cities and 120 countries.
More than 300 people attended the rally in Linn Park on Friday. In addition to Birmingham’s event, rallies all over that state in cities such as Mobile and Huntsville also were planned.
An eighth grader from Simmons Middle School in Hoover named Stella Tarrant was inspired to organize Birmingham’s event once she realized the city was not a part of the global protest. The event came together due to her efforts with the support of local environmental groups and her minister, Reverend Julie Conrady of Unitarian Universalist Church of Birmingham.
“We’re all on this planet together,” said Tarrant. “No matter where you come from, the color of your skin, or the political party you belong to or who your friends are, everyone should care about the future of the 7 billion people on this planet and the billions of people to come after that.”
Other students from the Birmingham area also led speeches and chants at the event. Margo Araoz, a senior at Homewood High School, told of how she came to learn about climate change and why she is an advocate for change.
“I hope that our takeaway from today is that individually, we may feel alone in this environmental battle,” said Araoz, “but all over the world people are doing exactly what we are doing: demanding change. United we can accomplish so much and so much we will do.”
In addition to the youth speakers, Scot Duncan, biology professor at Birmingham-Southern College, spoke about the specific impacts climate change is projected to have on Alabama and how climate change affects the population disproportionately.
“The more I read, the more I worry, and not just for nature, but for us. Climate change has created dire problems for our economy, our health, and our air and water supply. Climate change has disproportionally affected the poor and people of color,” said Duncan.
Towards the end of the event, founder of Black Warrior Riverkeeper David Whiteside directed the crowd’s attention to Alabama Power’s headquarters just a few blocks away, emphasizing the company’s fees on solar power and it’s Miller Steam Plant, one of the largest greenhouse gas emitting coal plants in the country.
“We need to make this issue local to fight it globally. We need to make Birmingham the poster child for the climate change movement,” said Whiteside. “We need to put all the national cameras on Birmingham like it was in the Civil Rights Movement. We need to make Birmingham national.”
After recognizing local environmental groups involved including the Climate Reality Project and Citizen’s Climate Lobby, the strike concluded with some words from Conrady, who encouraged everyone to do their part. She also encouraged people to attend the interfaith service at her church on Friday, Sept. 27 which will conclude Climate Strike Week.
Kyle Crider, an adjunct instructor of environmental studies at UM spoke briefly on the strike.
“I often say to my class ‘you young folk give me hope’. Nowhere was that clearer than the Birmingham Climate Strike event. The inspiration of Greta Thunberg was present as young person after young person took the mic,” said Crider. “The climate crisis reflects the failure of the parents, not the children.”
“My generation has failed Thunberg and the planet. We need to hear her words, but more importantly, we need to follow her lead and take act like adults,” said Crider. “How far are we adults willing to go to reduce our environmental impact? How many of us have bothered to change our car, our eating habits, or even a light-bulb? Give our kids and the planet a break. That means do something, adults.”