Following the lead of 16-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg, students, educators, advocates and local politicians alike gathered in the morning on Friday, Sept. 20 near Omaha’s City Hall to demand policy change in support of the Global Climate Strike.
Organizing the Strike
The Omaha Climate Strike was organized by Students for Sustainability, Omaha Students Union and the Nebraska Chapter of the Sierra Club.
The striker’s demands were for lawmakers to: “pass a state Climate Action Plan, say no to the Keystone XL Pipeline, transition to regenerative agriculture and harness our renewable energy potential,” according to the Omaha Students Union twitter account.
Overseeing many details of the event was Students for Sustainability founder and President Cate Kelly, a 17-year-old from the Omaha area. The decision to organize the strike was made only a month ago, and it almost didn’t happen.
While Omaha Public Schools slated Sept. 20 as a “curriculum day,” where no students had school, classes in other districts—including Kelly’s—were still in session. Notably, a sizable group of students from Central High School attended the strike.
“A lot of students—even in the organization—were hesitant solely because of school backlash, parents’ opinions, kind of the general worries about the kind of consequences there would be,” Kelly said. “We ultimately decided that the consequences of not doing anything are far greater.”
David Corbin, chair of the Nebraska Chapter of the Sierra Club, assisted the Students for Sustainability by bringing a solar and battery system for the PA systems and charging phones to avoid using city hall’s electricity.
Nearly 150 people, according to the Facebook event page, attended the strike in Omaha.
The #ClimateStrikes around the world today demonstrate the importance of youth activism & collective power. It is clear that inaction on behalf of our representatives is not an option. We need to act to protect our planet now! 🌏🌳♻️#YouthStrike4Climate#ClimateChange pic.twitter.com/ViengCTMDF
— Fatima (@FatiFlo0912) September 20, 2019
Between speakers, which included Adam Metzger of AJR, Nick Diaz of Food not Bombs and Douglas County Commissioner Jim Cavanaugh, attendees fellowshipped and participated in chants.
Metzger, a climate activist himself, imparted wisdom and encouragement to the crowd.
“One of the biggest pieces of information that I can impart is as much as possible: know your shit,” Metzger said. “That’s what’s going to make them listen, if you actually know more about it than they do.”
After hearing from speakers, demonstrators gathered at Hardy Coffee Company to write letters to representatives. Some carpooled to Lincoln for the Nebraska Climate Strike that afternoon, organized by Sustain UNL.
Although nearly every member of Students for Sustainability is just shy of voting age, that’s not stopping them from hitting the pavement to strike or lifting their voices to spread awareness.
“A lot of us are looking forward to it, but we can’t vote yet,” Kelly said. “This crisis really does affect our generation the most, and the generation above us and the generation below us. So, not being able to have a formal voice or vote in our system, we have to take a different course of action right now.”