'A Better Future Is Possible:' Hundreds Join Arizona Climate Strike

By Mariana Dale, Lauren Gilger
Published: Friday, September 20, 2019 - 11:06am
Updated: Monday, September 23, 2019 - 10:23am

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Hundreds of people marched through downtown Phoenix to the state’s Capitol on Friday afternoon to demand action to mitigate climate change. 

The Valley Climate Strike was one of thousands organized across the globe, according to student activists. 

Chants of, “We are unstoppable, a better future is possible,” and “We can’t drink oil, keep it in the soil,” echoed down Washington Street. 

“It’s really about revitalizing our community,” said Arizona Youth Climate Strike co-leader Aditi Narayanan, a senior at charter school Basis Phoenix.

The Jefferson siblings came with their grandmother after school was out. They’re worried about how the Earth’s climate is changing and pollution.  

“I’m 14, and I’ll be going off to high school soon,” said Ri’Conna Jefferson. “So I’m trying to fight for future generations, like my little brother and sister.” 

Her sister, Simone, said reflected on how once smart ideas have become harmful. 

“You’re not going to be the one living here for your mistakes,” she said.

Their brother, Paxton, was hopeful about the number of people who showed up.

“We’ll probably have enough to convince like the state Capitol to like do something about this,” the 10-year-old said. 

Sierra McDaniel held up a sign that said, “I’m missing 2 pre-AP and 4 AP classes for this by the time I make them up, you better have taken action.” 

 “I care a lot about my grades, but I care more about the planet then my grades,” said McDaniel, who attends a Scottsdale charter school. AP is short for Advanced Placement, a type of class that can earn a high school student college credit. 

The event drew people of all ages. 

“We like to help our animals and humans,” said 4-year-old Moses. His mom Katie Fahrenbruch translated his brother John Henry’s demands to a small sign that said “Help Us You Old Poopies.”  

Sean Greene marched with his family. Both of his children have asthma. 

Arizona Youth Climate Strike Organizers
Mariana Dale/KJZZ
Arizona Youth Climate Strike organizers Brian Mecinas, Aditi Narayanan and Claire Nelson have expanded the movement to include new voices in the last six months. “If you have anything we can improve on in the movement, let us know,” Narayanan said.

“We know that as the air quality continues to get worse, it gets harder and harder for them to be outside, and we’d like to reverse that so they can, you know, be out and enjoying themselves,” Greene said. 

His son, Liam, eyed my microphone. 

“Quiere decir algo papa?” he said, asking his son if he had anything to say. 

“I’m here because this march is for the Earth,” Liam said. 

Demands For Lawmakers

Arizona Youth Climate Strike has outlined several demands for local and state lawmakers including:  

  • Declaring a climate emergency.
  • Adopting or updating a climate action plan.
  • Creating a plan to help residents adapt to the effects of climate change.

The group encouraged people to contact their lawmakers and promoted a “week of action” that includes community environment-related events. 

“We need to make sure that everybody in our community is safe and that no one gets left behind, especially those that don’t have the resources to protect themselves from the crisis,” said Claire Nelson, a junior at Veritas Preparatory Academy and a co-leader of Arizona Youth Climate Strike.

She worries about how extreme heat will affect the Valley’s most vulnerable residents.

Signs from the March 2019 Arizona Youth Climate Strike
Brian Mecinas, Arizona Youth Climate Strike
Signs from the March 2019 Arizona Youth Climate Strike.

The New York Times reported Phoenix had 128 days at or above 100 degrees in 2018.

“Phoenix summers are getting hotter and Phoenix winters are also getting hotter,” Arizona’s climatologist Nancy Selover told KJZZ last year.

Arizona State University freshman Brian Mecinas said Arizona’s next legislative session in January is an opportunity for lawmakers to act.

“I think it’s very important that everyone needs to realize that if you do have the privilege to use your voice and to advocate against these issues, you should be doing that,” Mecinas said.  

The planned speakers were a diverse group including veteran activists, teenagers and indigenous people.

No elected officials spoke formally, though there were several in attendance. 

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