People often feel helpless when faced with monumental issues, especially when they affect all of humanity. That changed on Friday.
More than 200 people lined the edge of Bayfront Drive in Sarasota, near the Unconditional Surrender Statue, to join a global climate strike. Their effort came days before the United Nations’ climate summit in New York.
Sarasota was among thousands of communities in more than 125 countries that took part in Friday’s demonstration — a call for immediate action against climate change, said Sean Sellers, a leader of the Sarasota Climate Justice Coalition.
“Let that sink in for a moment,” he said. “These are unprecedented numbers calling for climate action, but we know that time is precious.”
Time was of the essence, he said, urging the crowd to target problems, list goals and make demands. His group convinced the Sarasota City Commission to pass a “Ready for 100” resolution, committing the city to 100 percent renewable energy by 2045.
The Manatee Clean Energy Alliance is pushing for the same commitment in Manatee County.
“It doesn’t just have to be city governments,” Sellers said on Friday. “There’s no reason that students here today couldn’t make similar demands of their school districts.”
Friday’s event — all the chanting protesters, honking drivers and smiling faces — was organized by a student. Ella Mirman, 16, founded Sarasota Students 4 Climate, a “student-led movement protesting the rise of global greenhouse emissions.”
Mirman was inspired by a teen activist named Greta Thunberg. She protested outside of the Swedish parliament in August 2018, inspiring students around the world to hold weekly demonstrations — dubbed “Fridays for Future” — and to protest the lack of action on climate change.
Now 16 years old, Thunberg traveled to the United States in an emissions-free yacht last month, and she spoke in front of Congress on Wednesday.
“My generation feels like we are going to be impacted by climate change in a way that older generations don’t have to worry about,” Mirman said, speaking at her demonstration in Sarasota.
“We’re taking a stand for our future, and that’s important to me because I have a younger brother and I want him to have a livable future,” she continued.
Similar protests were scheduled in St. Petersburg, Tampa, Lakeland, Tarpon Springs and Punta Gorda. Unlike students in New York, who received an excused absence for taking part in the climate strike, a student in Broward County was reprimanded for his involvement.
Elijah Ruby, a student at South Broward High School, advertised the protest and requested a field trip to the demonstrations. He was then suspended for one day and barred from prom, but the sanctions were later dropped, according to updated media reports.
At the demonstration in Sarasota, Ellen Jaffe Jones encouraged attendees to consider a plant-based diet, a solution to the vast emissions created by animal agriculture. And 13-year-old Sadie Chawkins, founder of Stop Toxic Ocean Pollution (STOP), called for an end to single-use plastics.
“If we don’t reverse our habits now, the future does not look good,” she said.