BEMIDJI -- BSU students and members of the community joined millions across the world Friday in a call for leaders to tackle climate change.
Starting Friday through Sept. 27, a global "strike" movement is taking place across the planet, with activists demanding lawmakers take action to shift away from fossil fuels and support reparations for those already impacted by climate change. The timing of the event is to coincide with the United Nations' emergency climate summit scheduled for Monday, Sept. 23.
"It's an emergency," said Anna Haynes, BSU senior and Bemidji event co-organizer. "We need to be talking about it and acting as if it's an emergency, like the house is on fire. We can't wait for change to happen tomorrow. We can't wait until I'm old enough to run for city council. It has to happen today."
On Friday, the local strike began at noon at BSU and was followed by a march to the Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox statues in downtown Bemidji. In total, 125 people turned out to take part in the event.
"It's happening all over the world," Haynes said. "Millions of people were planning to strike and the BSU Sustainability Office was getting a lot of calls from people who wanted a climate strike here. So, Students for the Environment decided if we wanted a strike, we had to host it ourselves."
At the march's conclusion, the crowd was addressed by Ward 4 City Council member Emelie Rivera, who explained why the movement was important to her.
"Ward 4 has the largest amount of shoreland in the city of Bemidji. It has the largest amount of wetlands in the city of Bemidji," Rivera said. "We all have a responsibility here, as both city residents and visitors, to take care of our climate and our community. As a city, we're doing a good job, but I think we can do a lot better. I pledge to do that, and I know there are others who feel the same as I do."
Rivera discussed some of the actions the city government has taken to address climate change. One example was the resolution passed in September 2018, where the city officially recognized climate change and urged the United States Congress to levy a revenue neutral fee on carbon emissions.
Other actions taken by the municipality include becoming part of the Mayors Climate Protection Agreement and participating in the Minnesota GreenStep Cities program.
"We're happy to see the community come out to show they care," Haynes said. "It was fantastic to have a representative from the city supporting us, too."
According to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the planet's average surface temperature has risen about 1.62 degrees Fahrenheit since the late 19th century. NASA states the change has been found largely driven by increased carbon dioxide and other human-made emissions.