Monday, October 25, 2021

Local Youth Protest Government Inaction on Climate Change

Photos by Christian Metzger

“What do we want? Climate justice! When do we want it? Now!”

Those words were chanted out in front of Naples City Hall on Friday, August 9th. Organized by Solemi Hernandez in conjunction with the Fridays for Future organization, they plan to protest every Friday from 3- 4 PM in hopes of mobilizing local politicians to make tangible steps to help mitigate the climate crisis.

Created by young Swedish activist Greta Thunberg in August 2018, at the age of fifteen, Fridays for Future now has over 4,000 affiliated protests in many different countries worldwide. “In Miami and many parts of the United States people are already doing this initiative,” says Hernandez in front of city hall, “We’ve suffered here since 2017 with Irma and last year with the red tide and now we have a ton of rain which is making the runoff pollution even worse.”

The impact of the algae blooms has become of particular concern for organizations like the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which has reported a “dead zone” in the Gulf that is linked to mass die-offs of dolphin and other aquatic species.

“We are considered ground zero for climate change. So, we want to bring awareness and get people engaged and put pressure on our elected officials to take action.” According to Hernandez, with fossil-fuel emissions rising by 3.4% within the last year alone, the dangers posed by environmental damage and sea level rise are of increasing danger to all Florida residents. “It’s all about awareness. We want people to know that they have a voice and that they can keep talking to their elected officials.”

Drucilla Neeley is a local resident who came out in support of the youth who came to protest, concerned about the inactivity of local politicians towards taking steps to mitigate the issue of climate change. “By continually reminding them that we are aware, that the youth are aware, of the planet dying and running out of water the more we’ll remind them that they’re in charge of changes and things that would benefit the quality of water and nature in general. It’s about supporting this new generation to be responsible for themselves to get the change of heart and mind in politicians and government itself.”

“This is an inter-generational issue,” Hernandez reiterates, but hopes that it is the younger generations within the Collier County area who will make their voices heard and take the initiative to inspire wanted change in their community. “It’s the youth who have their future at stake. So we want them to be the ones to lead this front here.”

“We can do many things at the local level. We can declare a climate crisis, there’s a lot of legislation and regulating pollution – we have options,” Hernandez said. The ultimate goal of the demonstrations is acknowledgement by local leaders to take steps toward meaningful and sustainable environmental goals. With reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) within the last couple days as well as other climate scientists, there is an increasing effort to reduce carbon emissions before 2050 – the predicted year when climate change damage may prove to be irreversible.

“We can even work with the government buildings here and have them powered by solar energy. It’s just a matter of sitting down and brainstorming,” Hernandez suggested, “It will cost us more and more in the long term not to do something.”

“There is a long way to go and many things need to be put in place, but it can be done,” said Neeley.

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