Students demand action during climate strike

Young activists promote environmental protections

Written By Amara Phillips, For The Globe


Pittsburgh’s climate strike took place Sept. 20 in front of the City-County Building. Students gathered to demand environmental justice as Leandra Mira, an 18-year-old from Upper St. Clair welcomed the crowd. Mira organized the Pittsburgh protest and demanded action from lawmakers.

“Our politicians in Pennsylvania have no plans of addressing this environmental crisis, turning this into a hub for plastic production,” Mira said.

During her speech, Mira revealed her reasons for striking:

“I strike because communities in Western Pa. are screaming and crying out for help. I strike because those communities aren’t rich enough for our politicians to care enough. I strike because someone needs to stand up for them. I am going to strike until Pennsylvania declares this an emergency,” Mira said. “Until they make a plan, until families don’t have to worry about lead in their water or carcinogens in their air. Until human lives are worth more than profit.”

Mira also stated her concern with fossil fuel extractions and the dangers they are causing. She ended her welcome by telling the crowd that change will happen if people continue to use their voice.

The crowd heard speeches almost exclusively from children and young adult activists.  The next speaker was Malachi Brown, a 5-year-old boy from Crafton, Pa. who gave his speech about the impact of climate change on wildlife and plastic waste.

Brown said he didn’t understand why schools don’t recycle and he wanted to know why places outside of the United States have better recycling policies.

Brown ended his speech by stating what he loves:

“I love Jesus, I love people, I love animals and I stand for environmental peace,” he said.

Benjamin Gutschow, a 17-year-old student from Squirrel Hill, talked about injustice, explaining how the earth is taken for granted and the importance of students having a voice.

Gutschow touched on how fossil fuel companies manipulate and dictate what controls our future.

“I call to action all of the adults, youth and especially the leaders. Help us save humanity,” Gutschow said.

Speaker Aiden Graber, an 11-year-old from Trafford Elementary, conveyed the danger of fracking and the increasing gas development in our community. He also brought up the problems of environmental issues in school systems.

According to Graber, schools never teach children about how the planet is dying, instead they teach children how to deal with it.

“I learned that a 5th grader can say something important and make a difference. Take responsibility like my parents and stop extraction,” Graber said. “I may be small but I have a big impact and you can too. I’m too young to vote but I’m not too young to understand why plastic and fracking is bad.”

Pennsylvania State Representative Sara Innamorato was another speaker at the rally. The main topic of her speech was ensuring local officials are held accountable on pushing forward pro-environmental policies.

“I ran for office because our elective officials aren’t doing enough because the rich and powerful will always protect the rich and powerful,” Innamorato said.

She followed that statement by rhetorically questioning the crowd, asking those in the audience if they want elected office officials to be comfortable or fight for justice. The crowd roared while demanding justice from elected officials.

“This day standing here brings me so much hope. You have an ally in me and I will stand with you until the end,” Innamorato said.

The last speaker of the event was Dr. Patricia Demarco, an environmental activist and grandmother. She talked about the different perspectives of the older generation and their experience fighting for environmental rights. Demarco started off her speech with her experience standing with her generation as they fought for clean air acts over 50 years ago.

“Shout out to those who fight” was the closing line of her speech, which prompted the next step of action during the climate strike: the climate march.

The crowd started marching on Grant Street to 6th Avenue towards Liberty Avenue and ended in Market Square. The crowd chanted the entire way as some protesters stopped to mark the street with colored chalk while writing things such as “Climate change now, don’t be blind” and “Plant more trees.”

“No more fracking, can’t you see there is no planet B” was one of the multiple chants that filled the streets while protesters walked on Forbes Avenue. The march ended hours later back at the City-County Building where there were tables set up full of informational pamphlets, pins, stickers and information sign up sheets to help those interested stay involved and receive useful information about Pittsburgh’s climate crisis and how they can help. One table even offered signed permission slips that acted as excused absences for students missing school for the event.

Scout Conley, a 16-year-old from Winchester Thurston, attended the protest in hopes to represent the issue and help draw attention to the climate crisis in Pittsburgh. Conley believes there has not been enough representation and has been deeply upset with the issue.

“This isn’t just for the world, it is also for yourself,” Conley said. “It’s really scary because we have no idea what will happen as science just points that our whole world will be different in 15 years.”

Conley said she believes that the protest will at least provide awareness to Pittsburghers about the climate crisis.

“I think it shows globally that if all these students are coming out that people will see there is a need to address this and if not, at least in Pittsburgh bypassers can see that there is a need for change, and maybe that will influence a lot of people’s decisions,” Conley said. “They won’t have a happy community unless they start addressing this more.”