Local youth join international climate protest

Photo by Ivan Phifer Isra Hirsi

On a beautiful, sunny, unusually hot fall day, hundreds of Minnesota high school and college students gathered Friday, Sept. 20 for a climate strike. The Minnesota Strikes Back event started off with a rally at Western Sculpture Park in Saint Paul. The group then marched to the steps of the State Capitol.

The event was organized and hosted by various environmental and youth groups, including Climate Generation: A Will Steger Legacy, TakeAction Minnesota, MN350: Building a Climate Movement in Minnesota, Minnesota Interfaith Power & Light, U.S. and Minnesota Youth Climate Strikes, and Youth Environmental Activists of Minnesota.

The goal of the rally was to speak out against the current climate change. In addition, the strikes came three days before world leaders were set to gather at the United Nations for a much-anticipated climate summit. St. Paul would join hundreds of other cities and countries in this worldwide rally, marching along with L.A., New York, London, and cities in China, Belgium and Denmark. 

“The most important thing we can do is raise awareness of climate,” said Hamline University scientist Steve Jorrissen. “More people are seeing the crisis that is facing us, and they need to let their elected officials know how they feel about that.”

In addition to opposition against climate change, youth coordinators such as U.S. Congresswoman Ilhan Omar’s daughter Isra Hirsi, the 16-year-old co-founder of the US Youth Climate Strike, gathered in opposition to climate injustice. “North Minneapolis is one of the most polluted areas of the Twin Cities, which motivated my interest to create change as this issue affects black and brown people the hardest.” 

Ivan Phifer/MSR News Minnesota Strikes Back climate rally at the State Capitol Sept. 21

In addition to making change, Hirsi said she was also there to defy what society wants an environmentalist to look like. “My existence in the climate justice movement in itself is an act of resistance.” 

Marco Hernandez echoed the sentiment of Hirsi by describing the social and climate injustices of his hometown. “In communities such as Richmond, California, a predominantly black and Mexican community, issues and topics such as these are often ignored unless there is a monetary financial gain and investment behind it.” 

Hernandez recalled a vivid memory from his childhood where he and his friends were playing on a vacant lot.  After a few minutes, they all saw a blanket of white clouds cover the city. Nobody thought anything of it. However, a steel mill reserve had exploded and sparks soon filled the city.  

“Me and my friends had no clue that the smog and air density were a form of injustice against our community,” Hernandez said. “We need to respect human lives and mother earth, work in harmony with the land, and preserve sacred land. Today we say ‘no’ to a capitalist economy, racial injustice and social inequity.” 

The rally was also a proposed measure to get Congress to support the Minnesota Green New Deal legislation. The goal of this bill will be to develop a comprehensive plan for Minnesota leadership that will support a sustainable economy.

A sustainable economy includes 100 percent renewable energy, energy efficiency for all homes and buildings, no development of fossil fuel infrastructure, eliminating greenhouse gas emissions from industries and transportation, and drawdown of greenhouse gases.

These organizations will also keep the public informed about the demonstration rally protesting the drilling of the Line 3 Pipeline in Duluth.