“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.
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“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.