Most strikes begin with a call to action — the Columbia Climate Strike, however, began with a ’caw. A scarlet macaw, to be exact.
Barb Kuensting, president of Climate Leaders at Mizzou, spoke to a large crowd of protesters at MU’s Speakers Circle on Friday afternoon with her macaw, Luna, resting on her arm. For Kuensting, Luna serves as a reminder and symbol of the impacts of climate change.
“As you know, the Amazon rainforest has been burning for over a month now and is still burning,” Kuensting said. “Luna’s wild cousins, and so many more species, are suffering the consequences of human action.”
Climate Leaders at Mizzou and Columbia’s Sunrise Movement hub worked together to organize the strike, which is part of a global movement designed to bring attention to climate change. For most of Friday, #ClimateStrike was the No. 1 trending hashtag on Twitter, with millions of posts from strikes around the world.
For some protesters in attendance, the strike hit close to home. Hickman High School students Bella McGarity, 15, and Giovanna Fernandes, 16, are both Brazilian and said they hope to bring attention to the situation currently happening in their country.
“It’s all personal to us, but the Brazil situation especially,” Bella said. “There’s no talk about it. It’s devastating to know our families and the world are suffering because of this and there’s nothing being done.”
Speakers from around Columbia, ranging from high school students to adults, encouraged people to call their elected officials and take action in their own communities.
“I’ve learned you’re never too small to make a difference,” Dany Dakhlallah, a junior at Hickman, said.
Dany, 16, also had a message for 2020 presidential candidates: “Have a plan to get to zero emissions, or get zero of our votes.”Ryder Jiron, president of Four Directions: Indigenous Peoples and Allies, stressed the importance of creating sustainable food systems and learning about how climate change is affecting black, brown and indigenous communities.
Four Directions is an organization at MU that seeks to advocate for “Native American and Indigenous students/peoples’ political, social, and cultural concerns,” according to its website.
“It’s vital for Western cultures to listen to indigenous peoples,” Jiron said.
Slogans like “What do we want? Climate justice! When do we want it? Now!” were shouted between speeches.Numerous speakers and protesters called on MU to divest from fossil fuels.
“One person alone going vegan isn’t going to save the world,” Kuensting said. “But getting the University of Missouri-Columbia to divest their investments from fossil fuels might.”
She said making MU divest might cause a ripple effect and force the other UM System schools to divest as well.
“We can either partake in the changing of our future or we can stand by and let it burn,” Kuensting said. “We want to be a part of the change for the future. Or stay silent. Your pick.”
Supervising editor is Tynan Stewart.