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Hundreds strike for climate in Flagstaff

“Like the sea level, we rise.”

“Make our planet great again.”

“Will we have really survived if we cannot go outside?”

Such phrases filled the signs held by the more than 600 Flagstaff protesters who gathered on the City Hall lawn Friday morning to participate in the Global Strike for Climate Change happening in more than 150 countries.

Students of all ages walked out of nearby schools and flocked to City Hall to show their support, lining West Route 66 with their colorful, handmade signs and chants of “Climate change is not a lie, please don’t let our planet die.”

Below knee level of most other protestors, 2-year-old Van Perry, though he may have been too young to walk out of school or even understand the sign he held (“Stop stealing my future”) knew his efforts could help save creatures like his beloved koi fish -- the ones the Old Town Shops’ basement pond.

Those more familiar with the cause, like Flagstaff Arts and Leadership Academy students, arrived en masse promptly at 10 a.m., signs in hand and voices ready to be heard. One student estimated that at least 100 students had left the FALA campus -- where another protest was staged – in favor of the citywide strike.

Sophomore Caroline Jordan, 15, said it was an easy choice to skip class to participate downtown.

“There is no education if there is no place to be educated,” Jordan said.

The entire seventh grade class of Flagstaff Junior Academy and their teachers were also in attendance.

“It’s really helpful for our kids to realize that they’re part of something that’s very big,” said FJA social studies teacher Ron Kuzara.

His students said they chose to participate to promote the Green New Deal, proposed legislation to reshape the national economy in favor of sustainability.

“Our hopes are, by 2030, we’ll be able to eliminate most fossil fuels. That’s pretty important to ensure that we’re not in a bad place on this Earth,” Eli Paine, 12, said.

Northern Arizona University students marched from campus, too, leaving their Friday classes behind.

Freshman Taylor Hall, 18, said she decided to attend because her generation needs to be motivated to act on behalf of important issues.

“It’s our job to make a change. Class is always going to be there, but I think it’s important to catch stuff like this in the moment,” Hall said.

Like many others, her sign featured the figure who came to be a sort of unofficial mascot for the local strike: Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax.

“I speak for the trees,” numerous signs stated, with variations on exactly what the trees would say in the face of climate change, complete with laments and expletives.

Small but mighty, the Lorax, like the children participating in the event, were confident they could be the force needed to make a difference.

“Adults are not going to be able to change [legislation] on their own because they’re going to be gone before there’s enough time to change it. It’s not like everything is going to change right away, but we’re going to lay out the steps to make it easier to change,” said FALA’s Aneeka Bippus, 12, who proudly said she would be voting in 2024.

Drew Fockler, a volunteer with the Citizens' Climate Lobby and an environmental studies student at Coconino Community College, helped with outreach in the months prior to the event.

He said networks of people like the hundreds who gathered for the strike are key to fighting such global issues.

“I hope people walk away with a sense that there is something they can do. The problem of climate change is that it paralyzes us sometimes because it is so big. … The best place to start is with a relationship,” he said.

25 lost jobs as Camping World in Bellemont closed earlier this month

After more than 18 years of operation, Camping World in Bellemont found itself among 36 other stores across the country that shut down earlier this month.

On Sept. 10, the roughly 25 employees who worked at the Bellemont location were gathered and told that it was their last week, and most had only three to four more days of work.

Jon Martinez, who had worked at the Bellemont Camping World for a little over four years, said the announcement caught the majority of employees flat-footed.

Martinez and Bill Betoney, another sales representative, both said they had seen the writing on the wall in the previous few weeks. Although there was no explicit communication from the regional office in Phoenix, both said the store had stopped receiving shipments of new products and RVs, with some RV units even being moved to other stores.

Still, for most employees, the news was a shock. Martinez said because he is reaching the end of his career, the job loss might affect him less than many of his former co-workers.

Betoney, who has a separate silk screening business that he never stopped running even while at Camping World, said he is in a similar situation.

But many employees were not so lucky. Martinez said he knows a number of his coworkers who had recently made large purposes or who had newborns and had no expectation they would suddenly be without a job.

On top of this, according to multiple employees, the company provided no severance payment.

The closure came after the company announced it was shutting down 37 stores across the country. In a press release published on their website, Camping World CEO Marcus Lemonis said the company will be changing its strategy and focusing efforts on the sale of its core product, RVs.

After going public in 2016, the company began to buy up other outdoor-focused stores, but it would appear the gamble failed to pay off. After hitting a high of $47 per share in December of 2017, the company’s stock price has fallen drastically to about $9 as of publication.

Martinez said he believes the closure of the Bellemont location was simply a way to make stockholders happy. He said in the time he has been with the company, the Bellemont store had always made a profit, but the corporate office had been forcing local cuts since the company went public.

After the closure of the Bellemont location, the nearest Camping World is in Phoenix.

Kevin McCoy, sales manager at Arizona Route 66 RVs, located just down the street from the now-closed Camping World, said he knew a number of those who worked there and said all were good, hard-working people.

McCoy said the closure comes just as the busy season for RV sales in northern Arizona comes to an end.

When it comes to those who may have bought RVs at the Camping World, other sellers of RVs may still honor warranties. McCoy said Arizona Route 66 RVs is honoring warranties on RVs bought from the closed Camping World, as will RV Country near the Flagstaff Mall, according to a spokesperson.

Camping World did not respond when asked for comment.

Ben Shanahan, Arizona Daily Sun 

General Charlie Duke, Module Lunar Pilot of the Apollo 16, speaks to a sold-out Ardrey Auditorium Friday evening during the kickoff celebration for the annual Flagstaff Festival of Science. The 10-day festival runs Sept. 29 and all events are free; for more information, visit scifest.org. This semester's NASA Space Grant intern, Christianna Reinhardt, will have more on Duke's talk coming soon.

Global youth protests urge climate action

NEW YORK — Young people afraid for their futures protested around the globe Friday to implore leaders to tackle climate change, turning out by the hundreds of thousands to insist that the warming world can't wait for action.

Marches, rallies and demonstrations were held from Canberra to Kabul and Cape Town to New York, and German police reported that more than 100,000 turned out in Berlin.

Days before a U.N. climate summit of world leaders, the "Global Climate Strike" events ranged from about two dozen activists in Seoul using LED flashlights to send Morse code messages calling for action to rescue the earth to Australia demonstrations that organizers estimated were the country's largest protests since the Iraq War began in 2003.

"Basically, our earth is dying, and if we don't do something about it, we die," said A.J. Conermann, a 15-year old high school sophomore among several thousand who marched to the Capitol building in Washington.

"I want to grow up. I want to have a future," Conermann added.

In New York, where public schools excused students with parental permission, tens of thousands of mostly young people marched through lower Manhattan, briefly shutting down some streets.

"Sorry I can't clean my room, I'm busy saving the world," one protester's sign declared.

And in Paris, teenagers and kids as young as 10 traded classrooms for the streets. Marie-Lou Sahai, 15, skipped school because "the only way to make people listen is to protest."

The demonstrations were partly inspired by the activism of Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg, who has staged weekly "Fridays for Future" demonstrations for a year, urging world leaders to step up efforts against climate change.

"It's such a victory," Thunberg told The Associated Press in an interview in New York. "I would never have predicted or believed that this was going to happen, and so fast — and only in 15 months."

Thunberg spoke at a rally later Friday and is expected to participate in a U.N. Youth Climate Summit on Saturday and speak at the U.N. Climate Action Summit with global leaders on Monday.

"They have this opportunity to do something, and they should take that," she said. "And otherwise, they should feel ashamed."

The world has warmed about 1 degree Celsius (1.8 Fahrenheit) since before the Industrial Revolution, and scientists have attributed more than 90 percent of the increase to emissions of heat-trapping gases from fuel-burning and other human activity.

Scientists have warned that global warming will subject Earth to rising seas and more heat waves, droughts, powerful storms, flooding and other problems, and that some have already started manifesting themselves.

Climate change has made record-breaking heat temperature records twice as likely as record-setting cold temperatures over the past two decades in the contiguous U.S., according to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration data.

Nations around the world recommitted at a 2015 summit in Paris to hold warming to less than 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit more than pre-industrial-era levels by the end of this century, and they added a more ambitious goal of limiting the increase to 2.7F.

But U.S. President Donald Trump subsequently announced that he was withdrawing the U.S. from the agreement, which he said benefited other nations at the expense of American businesses and taxpayers.

Trump called global warming as a "hoax" before becoming president. He has since said he's "not denying climate change" but is not convinced it's manmade or permanent.

New York protester Pearl Seidman, 13, hoped the demonstration would tell the Trump administration "that if they can't be adults, we're going to be adults. Because someone needs to do it." At least one Trump supporter waved a large "Trump 2020" flag as the demonstrators marched in Manhattan.

In Florida, high school students shouted "Miami is under attack" in Miami Beach, where some worried about losing their homes to rising water. On the West Coast, student-led protests drew in some Google and Amazon employees.

Amazon, which ships more than 10 billion items a year, vowed Thursday to cut its use of fossil fuels, and Google CEO Sundar Pichai told the Financial Times in a story published Friday that eliminating the company's carbon emissions by 2030 didn't seem "unreasonable."

Friday's demonstrations started in Australia, where organizers estimated 300,000 protesters marched in 110 towns and cities, including Sydney and the national capital, Canberra. Demonstrators called for their country, the world's largest exporter of coal and liquid natural gas, to take more drastic action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Acting Prime Minister Michael McCormack — filling in while Prime Minister Scott Morrison was on a state visit to the United States — said Australia was already taking action to cut emissions. McCormack called the climate rallies " a disruption" that should have been held on a weekend to avoid inconveniences.

Many middle schools in largely coal-reliant Poland gave students the day off so they could participate in the rallies in Warsaw and other cities, and President Andrzej Duda joined school students picking up trash in a forest. German police said more than 100,000 people gathered in front of Berlin's landmark Brandenburg Gate, near where Chancellor Angela Merkel's Cabinet thrashed out the final details of a $60 billion plan to curb Germany's greenhouse gas emissions.