Climate Strike Draws Hundreds In St. Petersburg

Sep 20, 2019

Protesters in St. Petersburg took part in climate strikes happening across the world Friday, ahead of a United Nations Climate Change Summit next week.

At least a couple hundred people marched from St. Petersburg City Hall to Williams Park.

"We're here because we're inspired by the youth that are trying to make a difference globally. We want to be a part of that, and we want our children to be a part of that,” said Cassandra Moll. She brought her three-year-old and her 16-year-old daughter, Charlie Alderman.

"Climate change is a problem. And adults are ruining the world. And when they're messing things up, we have to take it up,” said Alderman. “All of us can pretty much agree that it's awful, and that we need something to do about it. I already see a bunch of my friends here now."

Emily Tluchak was marching with about 25 students from a local school called Indi-ED, short for Individualized Education.

Teacher Emily Tluchak said, "We believe our kids should be aware of real issues." Thomas Iacobucci/WUSF

"We believe our kids should be aware of real issues and we think this is one of the biggest issues on our planet, and most of them are aware of that,” she said.

“Many of them know and we don't sugarcoat things, and we want them to see that they can be informed and they can have an impact and make a change no matter how old they are."

Tluchak said the students have watched videos in class of sixteen-year-old Swede Greta Thunberg, the driving force behind this youth-led climate movement.

Florida Suncoast Sierra Club was one of the St. Petersburg event organizers, along with For Our Future Florida.

A spokesperson said on a global scale, the group wants the United States to re-join the Paris Climate Accord, but that real change happens at the local level.

In front of city hall, St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman said to protestors that the climate "debate" is over, but the climate "emergency" is well under way.

"Make no mistake, this is an emergency. My office is treating it as such, and is exploring making a formal declaration of such,” said Kriseman.

St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman speaking on the steps of city hall. "I am grateful to be the mayor of a city that has such engaged citizens. You all give me the energy to keep going to keep pushing to keep fighting. So I want you all to have a great march and make sure everyone from downtown St. Pete to the capital can hear you," he said. Thomas Iacobucci/WUSF

He said severe storms like Hurricanes Florence and Michael last year cost billions of dollars, but he added that the damage is not just monetary.

“There is a human toll. People are dying. We're doing what we can here in St. Pete, we have our first ever sustainability roadmap. We've taken the Clean Energy pledge, we've invested in solar panels and programs and we've made progress to that end," he said.

There were nearly 20 demonstrations across Florida Friday and about 2,500 world-wide.

Left to right: Charlie Alderman, Cassandra Moll, Hadrian Alegarbes, and Katara Lynn Moll Alegarbes. Jessica Meszaros/WUSF