Harrisburg protesters join global climate strike

Demonstration among several across Pennsylvania

  • Rachel McDevitt

(Harrisburg) — Joining in protests happening around the world, more than 100 people gathered on the steps of the state capitol in Harrisburg Friday to call for action on climate change.

The strikes are taking place ahead of the U.N.’s Climate Action Summit on Monday in New York City.

Harrisburg rally organizer Lara Vracarich said they’re demanding immediate action from state and federal lawmakers to strengthen environmental protections and divest from fossil fuels in favor of renewable energy sources. She said the demonstration is also about growing momentum.

“And just inspiring people to stand up in their communities and make a difference and unite and come together,” Vracarich said.

Rachel McDevitt / WITF

Lucy Brennan, 12, of Hershey (right) and her aunt Ren Englum pose for a photo at the Harrisburg Climate Strike on Friday, September 20, 2019.

Lucy Brennan, 12, of Hershey said she wants more people to know what climate change is doing to the planet.

“I want them to know that it’s not just the next generation that’s going to be affected, they’ll be affected, too. Just saying, ‘Oh that’s a problem,’ isn’t enough,” she said. “I’m trying to get more involved, but it’s kind of harder when you’re younger. People don’t listen.”

Speakers at the rally detailed how a warming planet is contributing to more extreme weather that is negatively impacting people’s health.

Natasha Sood, a second-year medical student at Penn State College of Medicine, said studies show people will suffer adverse health effects in a warming climate, such as respiratory issues and poor mental health.

“Our generation will die from climate change,” she said.

Protesters amplified Sood in her call to action, chanting “because it is” after each of her directives.

“Act as if your survival is at stake, because it is. Act as if your future is at stake, because it is,” Sood said. “Act as if your kid’s life is at stake, because it is. Act as if your heath is at stake, because it is.”

Sood said she plans to strike at the capitol every Friday going forward to underline the urgency of addressing climate change.

Other protests in Pennsylvania

Philadelphia

Hundreds of young people gathered outside City Hall to demand their adult counterparts take action on what scientists call a “climate crisis.”

They carried signs declaring, “If you don’t act like adults, we will!” and “It’s getting hot in here!”

They’re joining a global climate strike happening all over the world — inspired by 16-year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, who started missing classes last year to bring attention to climate change in her home country. Thunberg has become the face of an increasingly visible youth movement calling on adults to “do their jobs” so they can have a future.

The Philadelphia rally started at 11 a.m. and brought students, environmentalists and other protesters together to support the future leader’s demands. Many school students and teachers attended the march disregarding the School District of Philadelphia’s announcement that they would be marked as an unexcused absence. New York City gave a free pass for students to attend the rally. Local college professors also rallied with their students.

Catalina Jaramillo, WHYY

Pittsburgh

Students and adults filled Pittsburgh’s City-County Building portico downtown on Friday as part of the global Climate Strike. Speakers included 18-year-old Leandra Mira of Upper St. Clair, who organized Pittsburgh’s protest and called on lawmakers to take action in fighting climate change.

“I learned that our politicians in Pennsylvania have no plans of addressing this public health crisis. What they plan on doing is turning western PA into a hub for plastic production,” said Mira.

Mira said she’s striking for people in western Pennsylvania dealing with poor air quality, and will strike until the state takes action on climate change. 

The climate strike movement was started by 16-year-old Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg. Her FridaysForFuture movement began in August of 2018, inspiring young people passionate about fighting climate change to strike all over the world.

Across the globe, hundreds of thousands of young people took to the streets to demand that leaders tackle climate change in the run-up to a U.N. summit.

Many were children who skipped school to take part in the second “Global Climate Strike,” following a similar event in March that drew large crowds.

Kathleen J. Davis, WESA

In Annville, organizers said, about 60 people attended at the town square near Lebanon Valley College.

In Gettysburg, organizers said, about 150 gathered on the steps of Gettysburg College’s Penn Hall.

A demonstration also was scheduled in Lancaster.