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Youth fills Tampa streets at climate change rally

by Sydney Rhodes

On Friday, Sept. 20, youth and environmentalists around the world and across the U.S., gathered for a climate action strike. One of which, was hosted in Downtown Tampa at City Hall. 

In an effort to draw attention to the global climate crisis, demand an end to fossil fuels and reductions in environmental destruction, the international event was deemed one of the largest environmental protests in U.S. history. With an estimated four million attendees, the global climate strikes took place in more than 150 countries, while over 800 protests were organized in the U.S. 

The Tampa Climate Action Rally was hosted by Our Climate and Florida Youth Climate Strike at 5 p.m. on Friday. An estimated 200 students, youth, and Tampa residents gathered on the steps of the City Hall and raised their posters, in the hope of change within the U.S. as well as the world. 

“I believe [these rallies] are going to be effective in a micro-type way, because it’ll be a shock,” said Anthony Vixayo, Tampa Climate Action Rally attendee and University of South Florida junior environmental science and policy major. “Usually people don’t take a stance to these kind of things. But it’s a step that our country needs to take.”

In addition, a St. Pete Climate Strike and March was hosted by Florida Suncoast Sierra Club, in cooperation with more than 20 other organizations. The strike and march took place on Friday at 1:30 p.m., also on the steps of the St. Petersburg City Hall, and reportedly drew in over 1,000 attendees. 

“I think coming here today really just helps me feel united with the community,” said Mary-Elizabeth Estrada, Tampa Climate Action Rally attendee and Florida International University alumni with a B.A. in environmental sustainability. “Even if it’s not going to influence politicians right in this moment, this gets a lot of people together. It’s a call to action.”

The international protest took place days before the United Nations Climate Action Summit on Monday, Sept. 23 in New York City. Government, business and societal leaders are expected to address the global climate emergency. 

Along with the strikes, millions of people around the world walked out of their classrooms and workplaces on Friday in order to demand action on climate change, including students in Tampa. 

Hundreds of Amazon workers walked out of their office in Seattle, WA on Friday. More than 1,000 tech workers rallied outside of the Amazon Sphere to protest, leading Amazon to release a statement saying that they had ordered 100,000 electric vans to deliver packages starting in 2021. 

Amazon also said it has emitted 44.4 million metric tons of carbon dioxide in the last year, a number close to some pollution rates in small countries. 

“Our country needs to tackle the consumerism issue,” said Estrada. “I think a lot of Americans are more materialistic than other countries and all the material used to create products gives off a lot of emissions. Becoming more of a minimal society would be very beneficial to the environment.”

Swedish environmental activist and protest influencer, Greta Thundberg, participated in the protests in New York City. She estimated that over 250,000 people attended the protest. 

“How we can get more young people involved – I think to just tell them the truth, tell them how it is,” said Thundberg in an interview with CBS News. “Because when I found out how it actually was, that made me furious so I wanted to do something about it.”

Tampa mayor, Jane Castor, spoke at the Tampa Climate Action Rally on Friday evening, stating, “Climate change is going to be a main focus of my administration. As I said on the campaign trail and I have put into this year’s budget, we have a sustainability and resilience officer. We will focus on mitigating the effects of climate change on our community and also ways that we can reduce our carbon footprint.”

Former president, Barack Obama, also supported the many attendees on Twitter, stating “One challenge will define the future for today’s young generation more dramatically than any other: Climate change. The millions of young people worldwide who’ve organized and joined today’s #ClimateStrike demand action to protect our planet, and they deserve it.”

Sydney Rhodes can be reached at sydney.rhodes@theminaretonline.com

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