Arizona Republic: 'We have time': Activists, elected leaders call for climate action...
'We have time': Activists, elected leaders call for climate action at Earth Day rally at Arizona Capitol
By Zayna Syed
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 the 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, environmental organizations mingled with attendees, handing out reading materials and urging people to call their political leaders for various causes. Organizers estimated more than 400 people attended the event, replete with a Mexican food truck and DJ.
While there was a strong focus on the Build Back Better Act, advocacy groups and city council members also touted local plans to fight 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.
Tempe City Councilmember Lauren Kuby lamented the lack of renewable energy and energy efficiency standards at the Arizona Corporation Commission, the 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 uranium mines near the Grand Canyon 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.”
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 said she first heard about climate change in 1968 after reading an article about fossil fuel companies that were concerned they would cause 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 researches eco-anxiety and called grief and anxiety natural psychological responses to climate change, but stressed that action is still possible.
“Hope can coexist with grief and anxiety,” she said. “Climate change is terrifying. But I implore all of you to hold onto hope. It is not too late.”