Worried for their future on a planet that grows hotter every year, thousands of young people showed up at protest rallies around the Sunshine State on Friday, demanding their elected officials combat the climate crisis.
“Now is not the time to be polite. Or gentle. Or lenient. Now is not the time to expect somebody else to do something for you,” said Charlotte Stuart-Tilley, a home-schooled high school freshman from Tallahassee speaking at a rally in front of the Old Capitol building.
“Now is not the time to solely pick up the litter, or turn off the lights, or turn the faucet off while brushing your teeth. Individual actions are not enough to solve this problem. We need radical action. Action to change a mindset of waste and privilege into a sustainable system that benefits health, the economy, and of course the environment that we and millions of other species depend on.”
Around 100 people gathered for the event in Tallahassee, one of hundreds held throughout the world on Friday, with crowds of more than 100,000 gathering in Berlin and Melbourne, the New York Times reported. Hundreds participated in rallies in Miami and more than 1,000 in St. Petersburg.
In Tallahassee, protesters carried signs warning: “Winter is not coming,” “March Now or Swim Later,” and “Politics won’t matter if there’s no world to politicize.”
“You guys have really shown us how bright our future can be if we’re willing to stand up, fight back against the corporate interests and the politicians that want to lead us into uncertainty,” Tallahassee City Commissioner Jeremy Matlow told the young people.
He pointed to a resolution approved in February committing his city to powering itself with 100 percent clean, renewable energy by 2050. Nine Florida cities have made similar commitments during the past year.
President Trump once described climate change as a “hoax” and has committed to taking the United States out of the 2015 Paris Agreement to combat the crisis, but young people aren’t buying that line. A Harvard Kennedy School of Government Institute of Politics poll conducted in March of citizens aged 18 through 29 found that 73 percent disapproved of Trump’s handling of climate change.
“I know it’s easy to feel defeated and helpless in the face of an issue of this caliber,” said Florida State University senior Isabella Jaramillo. “We know that we are capable of overcoming the worse of it, because of people like us. Because of people like us gathering and educating and inspiring.”
Tallahassee environmental activist Cara Fleischer preached patience and respectful communication with those who don’t believe that the future of the planet is at stake.
“We must see through the attempts to divide us, and reach out to our friends and families in circles to have respectful conversations about climate, to find common ground, to listen and ask questions,” she said.
Miami Democratic state Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez is sponsoring legislation envisioning the state reach zero carbon emissions by the middle of the century. He’s sponsoring five bills in total (so far) that deal in some form with climate change for the 2020 legislative session.
“I think the reality we face is we had a lost decade under Rick Scott,” Rodriguez said at a press conference this week in the Capitol, referring to Florida’s former governor, now a U.S. senator. “Because of that, small steps may seem like a big deal. We need action and we need a significant action now.”