About 300 activists gathered at St. Petersburg City Hall Friday morning, calling for action to combat climate change.
The St. Pete gathering, including a march through downtown, was among hundreds around the world that occurred Friday, three days ahead of the United Nations Summit on Climate Change.
Some two dozen organizations came together for the local action, said Tim Martin, chair of the conservation committee for the Florida chapter of the Sierra Club. The city of St. Petersburg also partnered with the groups and Mayor Rick Kriseman addressed the crowd, saying the debate over whether climate change is occurring has been settled.
“While the climate debate may be over, the climate emergency is well underway. Make no mistake this is an emergency. My office is treating it as such and is exploring making a formal declaration of such,” Kriseman said, drawing enthusiastic cheers.
The declaration would compliment existing executive orders and policies related to sustainability and resiliency, he said, adding there’s plenty of evidence of the climate emergency.
“You can see it on the evening news. You can see it online. You can see it just by looking outside your window at the heavy unusual bursts of rain that have plagued St. Petersburg or the blanket of heat that has enveloped us. We’ve seen tropical systems become devastating category 5 hurricanes seemingly overnight. We’ve seen fires floods and droughts. We’ve seen billions of dollars in damages. In 2018 alone, Hurricanes Florence and Michael cost $32 billion — just those two storms. The damage is not just monetary. There is a human toll. People are dying.”
The city of St. Petersburg is doing its part, Kriseman said, including creating a sustainability roadmap, taking a clean energy pledge, investing in solar panels and other infrastructure, and repairing seawalls.
“But as you know, St. Petersburg can’t go it alone. We cannot put an end to the fossil fuel industry and we cannot stop climate change or hold back rising seas, but we are doing our part. We are leading by example. We can be seen and heard and we can be unified in demanding climate action and climate justice and we can vote,” Kriseman said, to the chants of “vote, vote, vote.”
Also addressing the crowd was Bobby Fields, a fast-food worker who said fast-food companies that use disposable packaging, cheap plastics and harmful meat production are driving the climate crisis.
“The planet I live on is under attack. When the planet I live on is under attack I stand up and fight back,” said Jadzia “Jazzy” Duarte, student body president at University of South Florida St. Petersburg.
While young people were leading many of the climate actions worldwide, the St. Petersburg crowd included a broad mix of youth and older people.
Here are some #climatestrike tweets from other communities.
Seriously this was special. We played “the 1975” by the 1975 which is a speech by Greta Thunberg with a backing track. Many people were crying. We’ve never seen anything like this in Glasgow before with so many people.#ClimateStrike pic.twitter.com/ZyMUbHRugP
— Greenpeace (@Greenpeace) September 20, 2019
Young people are standing up & standing strong around the world because the world we live in is under assault right now. Climate change isn’t a distant threat & this fight isn’t just for generations to come. It’s for today. It’s the urgency of now. #ClimateStrike
— Rep. Joe Kennedy III (@RepJoeKennedy) September 20, 2019
— 350 dot org (@350) September 20, 2019
— 134 West (@134_West) September 20, 2019