No Planet B
by Sarah Poultney
Design by Lauren Arzbaecher
Chanting echoes down the Iowa City streets as crowds of protesters march onto the Pentacrest, led by young students holding a sign that says 'Iowa City Climate Strikes.' The groups included not just University of Iowa students, but also local high school and middle school students, as well as their parents, the organization 100 Grannies, and Veterans for Peace.
The crowd was full of supporters of various democratic candidates for president, including Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Pete Buttigieg, and John Delaney. The crowd chanted 'End coal now,' as they organized next to Schaeffer Hall and began the protest with an 11-minute die-in.
Also in attendance were representatives of the Sunrise Movement, a political youth-led movement that backs Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez' Green New Deal. I spoke with one Sunrise Movement organizer, Mona Abhair. She estimated there were about 200 people taking part in this one demonstration in solidarity with over 4 million worldwide, the largest climate protest in history.
Sunrise Movement was started about two and a half years ago because the environmental activism sector was practically nonexistent. Abhair explained further:
"Why other movements failed is they only did either direct action like sit-ins and marches or they only did electoral stuff like getting people registered to vote. Sunrise is a hybrid of the two. (…) We are working to stop the climate crisis and create millions of jobs in the process."
Abhair went on to speak about how climate change affects everything from wealth inequality to systemic racism. She emphasized that our generation is the first one projected to make less than our parents. It is because of this that it is so important to end the climate crisis before the years we have left are up, the '11 Years' deadline written on Abhair's cheek.
Several community leaders spoke to the crowd about what the climate strike meant to them, such as Maddie Patterson, a University of Iowa student and member of the Democratic Socialists of America. Patterson brought up the Iowa City flood of 2008 and how floods like these will occur more frequently if something isn't done to prevent climate change.
Tim Dwight, president of the Iowa Solar Energy Trade Association, explained how solar panels could be used more effectively than current coal-powered energy. He also spoke about his 4-month-old son, who is "gonna see some stuff," and how he wants to prevent the climate crisis for his child.
Miriam with 100 Grannies took a moment to bring the crowd back to exactly why they had turned out in such force. "This is the day our country turns away from authoritarianism," she shouted to enthusiastic cheers. "We honor Greta Thunberg," she said of the 16-year-old climate activist, quoting the young woman's speech in Congress from earlier that day.
"You must not spend all of your time dreaming or see this as some political fight to win.
And you must not gamble your children's future on the flip of a coin.
Instead, you must unite behind the science.
You must take action.
You must do the impossible.
Because giving up can never ever be an option."