JEFFERSONVILLE — As millions of people protested across the world for a day of climate strikes, a group also came together in Southern Indiana to raise awareness and demand action on the issue of climate change.
Community members participated in a climate strike Friday at several locations in Jeffersonville. In both the morning and afternoon, the group congregated at the corner of Spring Street and 10th Street, as well as Warder Park. Protesters held up signs with words such as "There is no PLANet B" and "This is our only home. The time to act is now" as speakers provided calls to action.
Organizer Anna Murray, an attorney with a Jeffersonville law firm, was inspired when she heard about the Global Climate Strike, and although she saw that a protest was organized for Louisville, she wanted to have one in her hometown. Throughout the world, both kids and adults have been leading protests inspired by Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, including hundreds of protests across the U.S.
"I wanted to bring it here, because I feel like in these smaller towns, we feel like — or people have the idea — that climate change isn't relevant," she said. "And I wanted people to feel that it is relevant, and I want people to feel empowered and also accountable. I felt it was important that everybody realizes we are all responsible to take action on this."
The protesters said there is a need for action on both the individual, local and national level, and the protest included a local government call to action. Murray said in addition to pushing for change from state and national leaders, she would like to see the local government make adjustments to reduce use of fossil fuels.
At the event, Murray presented a proposed mayoral proclamation she wrote. She asked the mayoral candidates of New Albany and Jeffersonville to commit to specific changes, including improving the energy efficiency of government buildings and fuel efficiency of government vehicles, protecting natural areas and installing solar panels once feasible.
"We're asking for our local governments to get onboard and start doing their part," she said.
New Albany resident Vaughn Zeller was one of the protesters at Jeffersonville's climate strike. He has been concerned with environmental issues for many years, including environmentally sustainable agriculture, he said. He hopes the protest inspires people to send messages to their elected representatives about the need to address the issue.
"We keep getting into this dichotomy, it's like the economy or the climate — well, if you don't have a climate that's stable, it doesn't matter what the economy is," he said. "You're not going to have an economy in an unstable environment, so we have to address it. And they are compatible — we can have a robust economic system and a stable climate, but we're being told by the people who have a vested interest in the status quo, in keeping things how they are, so we have to get out of that mindset."
Amy Stein, a New Albany-based attorney, was among the Southern Indiana residents participating in Friday's protests. She said it is time to start taking the issue of climate change seriously, and she would like to see national legislation to put a price on carbon. She wants to see more attention on social justice issues related to the populations most vulnerable to climate change, saying "the people largely responsible for putting carbon into the atmosphere are not the ones that are going to be mostly suffering from it."
She said on a local level, she wants people to contact their elected representatives to call for action. She also discussed how individuals can make environmentally-friendly changes in their own lives so they can "walk softly on our Mother Earth," including eating less meat and dairy and using more fuel efficient vehicles.
"We need to do something now," she said. "It's not too late, but it will be soon, and there's always room to make the problem less worse than it could be. Climate change is a moving scale, and it's here, it's coming. I don't know how bad it's going to be — a lot of how bad it's going to be depends on what we do today."
Climate change is an issue many people are ignoring or downplaying, Stein said, and at Friday's protest, she urged people to talk about the topic with those around them. It's all about "moving the needle," and continuing the conversation, she said.
"My son is 6 years old right now, and I've pretty much become convinced by the time he's my age, this is really going to be difficult. And it's not just one thing. It's not just sea levels rises, it's not just crop failures — I feel like our entire societal structures are going to be affected by this."
Lukas Young, 8, was one of the kids who skipped school Friday to participate in the climate strike. The Maple Elementary student expressed his own call to action during the protest.
"I know I'm just a kid, and I definitely shouldn't be having to do this right now, but this is serious, and some people, they don't listen, hear or feel what is happening in the world," he said. "And it's big. They have to. And I tell you, feel angry, but don't let that stop you from changing the world."