Under an overcast but bright sky, dozens of people gathered in front of the Capitol building Friday to participate in the Frankfort Climate Change Strike.
The event, organized by Franklin County High School junior Natalie Dufour, was one of more than 800 strikes happening across the U.S. and in more than 130 countries.
“This is probably the biggest climate mobilization in history,” Dufour told the crowd gathered at the foot of the Capitol steps. Bearing colorful hand-drawn signs, dozens of people, young and old, responded with enthusiastic cheers.
Like many other students, FCHS student Abraham Alhamdani missed class for the event. “We just decided that it was a chance to have our voices be heard,” he said.
Middle schooler Jae Gross, who traveled from Harrison County, learned about the strike on social media and convinced her mother to take the day off work to bring her and her friends.
“We’ve got to fix it now; we can’t really fix it later,” Gross said about climate change.
Frankfort resident Nate Orshan provided the PA system for the event and performed songs on his guitar.
Dufour addressed the crowd, claiming that climate change is five to 10 years away from being irreversible.
“I don’t want to leave our descendants with a bare rock for a home,” she said. “I want to give them a healthy, beautiful place to live. If you want this too, and I know you do, we need to act now.”
Dufour called on city and county governments to cut fossil fuel usage in half by 2030 and completely remove it by 2035, and for the state to have zero carbon emissions by 2050.
Then she explained her personal plan of action. “For my high school, I want to cut the usage of single use styrofoam trays, improve recycling and create an outdoor classroom so all students can experience nature,” Dufour said. “I believe that we can achieve these goals and many more.”
Dufour’s speech was followed by Frankfort High School sophomore Jewell Mueller, who said she first heard about climate change in second grade when she met Dufour and her family. “Her mom and family are passionate environmentalists and have spread the love of it to my family and me,” Mueller said, explaining that climate change is “change of weather in our environment due to increased levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide which is caused by the burning of fossil fuels.”
Mueller proposed teaching sustainability and more real-world climate science in schools. On a trip to Alaska this summer, Mueller was galvanized by the sight of a greatly receded glacier.
“Disappearing glaciers are just one consequence of climate change, but one change affects the whole earth and all of life, as we are all connected,” she said.
Andy McDonald, director of Sustainable Systems Programs for Earth Tools Inc., concurred, reading aloud a passage from poet John Donne. “No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main,” he read in an urgent tone. He continued: “Any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind. And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”
It was a somber allusion to the global effects of climate change. But the students and crowd on Friday rang out a hopeful message.
“I’m overwhelmed by the amount of passion and dedication that all of you have, and how many of you are here supporting this cause,” Dufour told the crowd. “We can create change.”