Local Atlas

Youth leads Pensacola Climate Strike

Throughout the recent years, young minds have led the way on controversial topics. In 2017, 19-year-old Nina Donovan’s poem “I am a Nasty Woman” empowered many women during the Women’s March. In 2018, Parkland school shooting survivor Emma Gonzalez fought for gun control.

In 2019, youths like Sweden environmentalist Greta Thunberg are leading discussions on climate change. Thunberg has encouraged millions of people from around the world to participate in her Global Climate Strike on Sept. 20.

Pensacolians supported Thunberg by putting together their own climate strike at the Plaza deLuna. 350 Pensacola and Healthy Gulf hosted the event and arranged the speakers. 

Pensacola’s Climate Strike had several young speakers. The strike began with a performance from local singer songwriter Brynne Heatley. 

Heatley sang a song she wrote a day before the event. Heatley’s song is about taking action.

Pensacola singer songwriter Brynne Heatley singing her latest song about helping the Earth.

“I can’t change the past, but baby, we can change the now,” Heatley sang.

The audience sat scattered across the grass swaying to Heatley’s music. Students from Pensacola Private School Of Liberal Arts (SOLA) stood together with signs supporting the event. Children ran throughout the crowd chasing birds. 

The leader of 350 Pensacola’s Youth Climate Coalition is 17-year-old Jett Zhang. He led the march’s chants. Zhang is a senior at Pensacola High School.

He said he became interested in environmental issues after he took AP Environmental Science his junior year. 

“Climate change makes inequality worse,” Zhang said. “I wanted to do something about it.”

SOLA Principal Jacqueline “Ms. Jacqui” Tarver said her school partnered up with the local non-profit Sarah Adeline Center to help the students learn more about environmental issues. Sarah Adeline Center focuses on connecting communities through art, entertainment, and educational programming.

SOLA Principal Jacqueline “Ms. Jacqui” Tarver and her daughter of Pensacola listening to the speakers at the Pensacola Climate Strike.

“I think it’s important for the youth to be active in the current issues facing them today,” Tarver said. “We keep them informed so that they can make a change.”

SOLA student Arren Joseph-White, 16, said she came to the event to learn how to take action.

“I want people to quit talking about the issue and start doing something,” Joseph-White said.

SOLA student Halcy Gaudet,17, said her school encourages them to be environmentally conscientious.  

“As a school, we try to reduce the amount of paper and plastic we use,” Gaudet said. “Right now, we’re collecting plastic bottle cap lids to make a bench.”

SOLA students Arren Joseph-White and Halcy Gaudet of Pensacola protesting alongside several other classmates.

Oliver Chamblin, 14, spoke about his lawsuit against the state of Florida at the event. Chamblin, his family and several other people are suing the state for failing to take action to address climate change. Chamblin said that they are expecting a settlement soon.

Climate Strike protestors from Fort Walton Beach Larisa Sallisbury, 23, and Caitlin Grobmyer, 24, said they came to the strike because they feel helpless.

“I came to see what we can do to help with climate change,” Sallisbury said. “I feel helpless.”

Grobmyer said she felt inspired by Thunberg and felt obligated to take action so that the next generation doesn’t have to.

“Greta Thunberg made a big statement,” Grobmyer said. “It doesn’t surprise me that young people are involved. It’s good seeing so many young people working together.” 

Caitlin Grobmyer, server, and Larisa Sallisbury, office administrator, discussing their reasons for coming to the strike.

Gina Castro is a senior at the University of West Florida where she is double majoring in English Literature and Journalism. When she's not researching new stories to write articles about, she is watching knitting tutorials or obsessing over Toni Morrison.

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