Climate Strike 9.24

Environmental activists carry climate action signs at the steps of the Capitol Building during the globally-coordinated climate strike on Friday, Sept. 24, 2021 in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Behind chants of “Be the solution, not the pollution,” protesters applauded and yelled at passing traffic holding banners that featured a picture of the earth at a strike for climate action on the north steps of the Nebraska State Capitol Friday afternoon.

University of Nebraska-Lincoln students and community members were among those who made their presence known by holding the rally simultaneously with others around the globe

Embrace Lincoln, a local initiative focused on uniting Nebraskans for climate action, organized the climate strike to raise awareness of its cause with hopes of gaining the attention of Nebraska legislators. 

“It’s our future and that's why we’re here, because what is the point in sitting in a room a mile away [UNL] when the information we are learning isn’t being applied in this room [the Unicameral],” Kat Woerner, a senior environmental studies, natural resources and environmental economics and economics triple major and Sierra Club Nebraska Chapter’s executive committee member, said.

Around 50 people attended the strike, chanting and waving handmade signs like “Optimism is killing our planet,” “There is no planet B” and “Protect your mother” at passing cars as a variety of speakers addressed the audience about the impact of climate change not only in recent years but how Native American tribes were affected by environmental changes through colonization.

“We [Native American tribes] knew every edge of this land and the practices we had in place are what helped maintain a healthy ecosystem,” Renee Sans Souci, a Native educator and activist, said. “Climate change is the result of this possession of land.”

Aila Ganić, a senior political science major, president of Sustain UNL and a core member of Embrace, helped organize the strike to involve the community in the group’s fight for change.

“We want to really get the word out that this is what Nebraskans want,” Ganić said. “Nebraskans deserve affordable energy, clean air and water, and Nebraskans deserve sustainable jobs.”

Similar strikes have been held in past years, which have garnered larger crowds than this year’s demonstration. Some of those in attendance expressed disappointment at this year’s turnout.

“Seven years ago I was in New York City for the biggest climate march ever and we haven’t made a lot of headway since then, so we still gotta call attention to the need to stop fossil fuels and go to renewable energy,” David Corbin, Sierra Club Nebraska Chapter’s legislative and energy chair, said.  

While the crowd was smaller than anticipated, organizers still led the crowd in chants and proclaimed their demands for change such as, “What do we want? Climate action! When do we want it? Now!”

“We have three demands: pass a statewide climate action plan, harness our renewable energy and transition to regenerative agriculture. We want these demands to be met, but we want them to be met in a just way,” Ganić said. “We don't want people who work in the fossil fuel industry out of jobs. We want a plan in place to transition these workers to then work in the wind energy industry.”

Ganić said she knows people may be hesitant to make change if it directly affects their livelihoods, but she hopes that if support and reintegration services were in place, concerns would be eased.

“We understand that people are hesitant for change, but if we have plans in place to support these individuals and ensure that they're not just left with nothing, that's the kind of transition we want,” she said. 

In addition to their demands, Ganić said the protest aimed to raise awareness of the intersections that climate change affects.  

“If you care about mental health issues, climate change affects that. If you care about refugees and immigration, climate change affects that. If you care about agriculture and livestock, climate change affects that,” she said. “It really is intersectional with every other social issue.” 

Ganić said she feels climate change is often ignored in Nebraska because the state is not experiencing large-scale natural disasters like hurricanes and wildfires. 

“People don't think that climate change is affecting Nebraska as much as it is, but we see climate change affecting our farms, agriculture and livestock. We see it affecting our younger generation as they're facing eco-anxiety,” Ganić said. “It is very real and present in Nebraska, and I think that organizing people on the ground and getting communities together is one of the most important ways to have us all come together to face this existential crisis.”

With the support of the community, protesters hope they get the attention of legislators and that change can be found through future action plans.

“We have a real problem on our hands here, and I want to do everything in my power even as small as I am,” Jessa Alspaugh, a sophomore psychology major,  said. “I know I can’t make a difference just by myself, but I know if enough people come together, then we can do real change.”

News reporter and photographer