If Nebraska politicians want Lauren Bloomquist’s vote in future elections, they will need to be committed to action on climate change.
Likewise for Mary Clare O’Connor. And Carli. And T.J.
The demand for action by elected leaders on climate change was sounded repeatedly Friday at a rally outside City Hall in Omaha. The event, which drew more than 300 people, was part of a larger “climate strike” occurring around the globe over the next several days.
“A lot of representatives in Nebraska aren’t taking action,” Bloomquist, 19, said as she held a sign that said “Let’s pause for a moment of science.”
“They need to hear our voice,” she said.
In Omaha, one of the goals of rally organizers was to get the state’s elected leaders to act.
“It’s dangerous to have people in office who don’t believe in climate change,” said Brittni McGuire, an Omaha Central High graduate who is a junior at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. “We need to tell them straight up: They’re stealing our future — that’s what they’re doing.”
Many of the kids met at Crossroads Mall to share a bus to and from the rally.
There was even some star power at Omaha’s rally. Elijah Malcomb from the touring production of “Hamilton” attended, as did Adam Metzger of the pop band AJR.
Metzger spoke at the event and called on those attending to study climate change so that they know more than the people they lobby. That’s the way to be effective, he said.
“Do your work,” he said. “Know your (stuff).”
Malcomb attended with another member of the Hamilton troupe.
“This is important,” Malcomb said. “We have one planet, we all live here together ... it’s all of our problems.”
A group of about 500 also gathered outside the Nebraska Union on the UNL campus, organizers said. The group included a mix of college students, children, older residents and representatives of local Native American tribes.
They marched together from the Lincoln campus to the State Capitol on Friday afternoon.
“(Our elders) always told us Mother Earth doesn’t belong to us, it belongs to our future. And so right now the climate is in crisis, and there won’t be a future for the youth. So that’s why we have to stand up for them,” said Michelle Sky Walker of the Omaha Tribe.
McGuire said the marchers have a message for Gov. Pete Ricketts and the Nebraska Legislature.
“We are the constituents, and they are here to represent us. And we’re speaking out, and we’re going to keep making noise until they can’t ignore this issue anymore,” she said.
Ricketts said through a spokesman that “Nebraska’s family farmers and ranchers are the original conservationists and do more to protect the environment than almost anyone else in the world.”
“I encourage folks to educate themselves on what we do here in our state instead of adopting the dangerous agenda of a global movement which wants to stop meat production and end our way of life,” Ricketts said.
Similar rallies were to be held in Crete and Kearney and at the Iowa Capitol in Des Moines.
The youths want Nebraska to pass a state climate action plan, among other steps.
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Scientists and economists say climate change could sap hundreds of billions of dollars from the U.S. economy over the next 80 years, dislocate tens of millions of people globally over the next 30 years and generally undermine food production. Additional warming and increasingly hostile weather is locked into the future that these youths face, scientists say, because of the delayed effects of global warming gases already in the atmosphere.
That’s what worries those attending the rallies.
Cate Kelly, a 17-year-old senior at Mercy High School who helped organize the Omaha rally, said the future is so uncertain that some of her peers are starting to question whether to have children.
“It raises the question of what will be left when I’m older and what sort of hardships my children will have in terms of fight for natural resources,” she said.
Friday’s events were timed to precede next week’s United Nations Climate Action Summit, which will focus on making the world safer, cleaner and healthier.
World-Herald staff writer Sierra Karst contributed to this report.