In an Earth Day rally almost resembling a fair, people of all ages gathered at the Arizona Capitol on Saturday afternoon to stress the urgency of the climate crisis and push for equitable action at congressional and local levels.
“The IPCC was very clear. It said unless we fundamentally change the trajectory of greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, we are committing to profound and irreversible climate harms by mid-century, 2050,” said Sonja Klinsky, a professor at Arizona State University, referring to Reports from United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. “That gives us eight years, people.”
Speakers and attendees called on the U.S. Senate to pass the Build Back Better Act that contains $555 billion in funding to address the climate crisis, a measure that has been stalled since last November.
“In the House of Representatives and the Natural Resources committee, particularly in these last two years, we’ve done our job,” Rep. Raúl Grijalva, D-Ariz., said. “Part of the public pressure and political reality is other bodies need to do their job.”
Under tents, representatives from environmental organizations interacted with the attendees, giving out reading materials, and encouraging them to call their elected officials for help. The event featured a Mexican food truck and a DJ.
While the Build Back better Act was the focus of the conference, advocacy groups and members of city councils also highlighted local plans for combating climate change.
Phoenix City Councilmember Yassamin Ansari introduced herself as “first and foremost” a climate advocate and said the city plans to commit up to $150 million to purchase electric buses, but needs support from the federal government.
Lauren Kuby, Tempe City Councilmember lamented the inability to set standards for renewable energy and energy efficiency at the Arizona Corporation Commission (state utility regulator).
“You need to start paying attention to how decisions being made at the Arizona Corporation Commission are affecting your daily life and affecting the future of our planet,” she said. “It’s the most important race that no one’s ever heard of.”
Carletta Tilousi, a Havasupai tribal member, drew attention to the Near the Grand Canyon are uranium mines and their detrimental effects on her tribe.
“Us Native Americans, we have struggled so far and so long, and we don’t need it anymore,” said Tilousi, who serves on the White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council. “We want to make sure our future generations have clean air, clean water and a happy life. That’s all we ask for.”
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The climate action movement has been known for its youth activism, but the rally was noticeable for its age diversity.
Hazel Chandler works to mobilize older people to take action on the climate crisis with Arizona’s chapter of Elders Climate Action. Chandler stated that she first learned about climate change after reading an article on fossil fuel companies, which was concerned about global warming.
“We have time, and we have a real reason,” she said. “I’m a new great-grandmother and I’m petrified about the future that she’s going to have. That’s why I won’t stop.”
Youth climate activist Saiarchana Darira asked for increased representation of young people in decision making. Darira studies eco-anxiety, and calls grief and anxiety natural psychological reactions to climate change. However, he stressed that action is still possible.
“Hope can coexist with grief and anxiety,” she said. “Climate change is terrifying. But I implore everyone to keep believing. It is not too late.”
Zayna Sayed is an environmental reporter with The Arizona Republic/azcentral. Follow her Twitter feed at @zaynasyed_ and send tips or other information about stories to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust has provided funding to support environmental coverage at azcentral.com, and in The Arizona Republic. Follow The Republic’s environmental reporting team on environment.azcentral.com and @azcenvironment on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
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