Activists will bike 33 miles from Chapel Hill to Raleigh on Friday to pressure local and state governments to act on the climate crisis as part of the student-led Global Climate Strike.
The Chapel Hill Climate Strike was organized by 16-year-old climate activist Ember Penney to pressure the Chapel Hill Town Council into adopting a local Green New Deal resolution and supporting the national climate efforts by U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-New York
“Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old Swedish climate activist, inspired me to take action locally,” Penney said. “She was one of the first of her age to start actually striking.”
Thunberg went viral online in 2018 for striking in front of the Swedish Parliament every school day for three weeks, which led to the Global Climate Strikes occurring this weekend. More than 150 countries will participate in the strike, and North Carolina will have more than 10.
“There is also going to be a walkout from all of the Chapel Hill high schools and Carrboro high schools to come to the strike, whether their schools are making excused absences or not," Penney said.
At 9 a.m., the high school students will join students from both UNC and Duke University at the Peace & Justice Plaza. The activists will then leave Chapel Hill at 9:30 a.m. and cycle to the Triangle Climate Strike at Halifax Mall in Raleigh.
There will be opportunities for participants to stay involved after the Global Week of Action next week, such as making phone calls and taking personal steps to reduce consumption, organizers said. They stressed that although this is a student-led event, anyone wishing to participate is welcome to attend.
Organizers of the strikes said their goals for combating climate change in the Triangle are to reduce fossil fuel emissions and to stop the use of coal-fired power plants, most notably the power plant operated by UNC. The University recently renewed a permit to continue operations at the power plant.
Megan Raisle, a UNC senior and organizer for the strike, said the demonstrators will be a "zero-emissions caravan," meaning they will travel emission-free to Raleigh. Participants can choose between two routes at the event.
In addition to cycling to Raleigh, activists may choose a route around the University that is 1.5 miles, symbolizing the efforts to prevent global temperatures rising above 2 degrees Celsius.
For those unable to ride their bikes to Raleigh, information for traveling to the Triangle Climate Strike utilizing the public transit has been made available so they will still be honoring the zero-emissions goal of the caravan, according to the event's Facebook page.
Karen Bearden, a facilitator for the Triangle Climate Strike and 350 Triangle Coordinator, said over 25 organizations will host booths at the strike in Raleigh to provide more education on the climate crisis and explain to participants how they can get involved. Activists will make a quilt to provide a visual of the story about their fight for action, she said.
“We need to change the system," Bearden said. "There is a climate emergency and we need action now."
In addition to the rally, organizers will also deliver letters to the General Assembly, Gov. Roy Cooper's office, the N.C. Public Utility Commission and the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality.
Andrew Whelan, marketing communications manager for Clean Air Carolina, described the student-led movement as bold and inspiring and said the students won't tolerate lack of political action. Whelan emphasized that the students are using the strikes to fight for their future, and that Clean Air Carolina will be proud to stand with the young people. He encourages others to join them.
From Thunberg to Penney, young people use the strikes tomorrow to call for solutions to the climate crisis. Penney said she feels it is especially important to be engaged as this issue will have the biggest impact on people in her generation.
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