Two Kansas City Rallies Demand Action Against Climate Change
Updated at 9 p.m.
Dozens of college and high school students gathered on the University of Missouri-Kansas City campus on Friday morning to demand action against climate change. On Friday evening, hundreds more reinforced that message at Mill Creek Park near the Country Club Plaza.
The student protest, organized by the local branch of the Sunrise Movement, was one of hundreds of similar events around the world. Many participants were inspired by Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old environmental activist from Sweden who has become a global celebrity in a movement against climate change.
"I watched the news about Greta, and we thought we should come to support the climate," said 10-year-old Cameron Przylecki. "I like that she stood up, and traveled to the U.S. all the way from Sweden just to make her point."
The organizers demanded a regional and federal Green New Deal to transition the economy to 100% renewable energy. UMKC student body president Justice Horn also called on the entire University of Missouri System to divest its $13 million of fossil fuel holdings.
"Being at the biggest institute of higher education in Kansas City, we're really pushing for our institutions and universities to join the fight, because they have a lot of sway and power at the table when it comes to investments and where the city and state are going," Horn told KCUR.
Climate change is something UMKC senior Anna Diouf said she feels strongly about.
"We're hurting the environment and no one wants to take that much action," Diouf said. "I just feel like a lot of companies are more interested in themselves and the profits they're making instead of what they should be doing to better the environment for everybody else. It's very selfish."
High school students also joined the protest Friday, including several from St. Teresa's Academy. Senior Avalon Manica said it was her first time protesting.
"Last year I even went vegetarian to do my own part to help the environment," Manica said. "It's my future. I feel like people aren't taking it as seriously as they should be. This will help, to show older people especially, this is our issue."
The evening's rally at the J.C. Nichols Fountain at Mill Creek Park drew several hundred people of all ages, including representatives from local branches of the NAACP, the Sierra Club, the Service Employees International Union, KC Tenants (an affordable housing activist group) and anti-gun activists.
Speakers highlighted the connections between race, wages, housing and the climate crisis.
Michael Wolfe of SunriseMovementKC said he hoped the rally would draw attention to how climate change intersects with other issues.
"Personal story," Wolfe said. "I went to school in Southern California. I had to evacuate because of a wild fire and got a respiratory infection. I didn’t have paid time off and wasn’t on my parent’s health insurance."
Richard Mabion with the NAACP of Kansas City, Kansas, said he wanted to "create a climate consciousness."
"It's not that people in our cities don't care or have other priorities," he said. "They simply don't have the information."
Surrounded by young activists, U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, a Democrat representing the city's 5th Congressional District, said he has signed on to a bill that seeks to limit carbon emissions.
"We may have a chance to do something (on climate change) for the first time," Cleaver said.
Brookside resident Sarah Snodgrass said while she isn’t an expert, the severe weather across the globe worries her.
"I have two children," she said, "and I want them to have a beautiful planet when they grow up just like we have."