Jillian Kurtz

Lakelanders participated in a strike meant to bring attention to climate change on Friday outside of the Southgate Shopping Plaza on S Florida Ave.

The strike was part of a network of strikes that occurred on six continents and in thousands of cities called the “Global Climate Strike.” Figureheads of the movement to pressure governments to take action opposing man-made climate change, like sixteen-year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, hoped to unite students against environmental apathy.

In Lakeland, Natalie Alexich and Sandy Patterson both organized the rally and greeted everyone who joined them to bring awareness to the issue of climate change. 

“Lakeland may be starting small, but we are wide awake,” Alexich said. “This is about educating the population about what they can do as individual human beings in their homes and their places of work. This is a critical issue.”

Members of the community started showing up even before 5 p.m., when the event was scheduled to take place.

AmyLee Pritchard is a Florida Southern graduate student getting her doctorate in education. She is dressed in an alien costume in an effort to attract more attention from the Area 51 Raid, another Facebook event that was scheduled to happen on the same day as the Global Climate Strike. 

“Today is ‘Storm Area 51’ day, so I wanted to put a spin on it and be like ‘Look, we don’t have climate change on my planet,’” Pritchard said. “I also thought it would be a good way for kids and teens to be like ‘ha, that’s funny’ and actually read my sign.”

Photo by Merlanee Johnson – Members of the community at the Lakeland Climate Rally on Sept. 20.

Pritchard co-directed the 2017 March for Science in Lakeland and is a local activist. 

“The first thing to do is obviously believe science and believe scientists,” Pritchard said. “It’s not necessarily the common person that makes a difference, it’s big corporations, so you need to contact your politicians, your local lawmakers to get them to put punishments on big corporations for polluting the air, and those kinds of things.”

Other members of the Florida Southern community showed up to show their support for the cause. Jerry and Lisa Prescott, class of 1987 and 1988, respectively, are a part of the local Sierra Club, a non-profit environmental organization. The Sierra Club is renewing efforts to establish a working committee on issues of environmental concern in the West Panhandle, according to their website. 

The Global Climate Strike was started after school students organized through the #FridaysForFuture platform, used to bring attention to the issue of climate change. The strikes on Sept. 20 precede the United Nations Climate Action Summit set to take place on Sept. 23 in New York.

According to un.org, UN Secretary-General António Guterres is calling on all leaders to come together with concrete, realistic plans to enhance their nationally determined contributions by 2020, in line with reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 45 percent over the next decade, and to net zero emissions by 2050. More strikes are planned to take place on Sept. 27.

 

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