Teens lead Milwaukee’s hundreds-strong climate march

By: - September 21, 2019 5:16 pm
A teenage activist holds a sign reading "this si the face of the revolution,

A teenage activist holds a sign reading “this is the face of the revolution.” (Photo by Isiah Holmes)

Several hundred people gathered at Milwaukee City Hall on Friday, Sept. 20, to take part in the global climate strike. They joined over 4 million people across 163 countries who marched for immediate action by world governments to cut carbon emissions and address the climate crisis.

“I want my future children to live in a world where they don’t have to worry about where they’re getting clean water, or if the oxygen is breathable, or if they’re going to survive, or if their children are going to survive,” 17-year-old Zora Allison told Wisconsin Examiner.

Milwaukee People's Climate March. Photo by: Isiah Holmes
Milwaukee People’s Climate March. Photo by: Isiah Holmes

Suzelle Lynch, 60 years old and senior minister at Brookfield’s Unitarian Universalist Church West, said she and her congregation came, “because the threat of climate catastrophe is not years out, it’s at hand. And we want to put pressure to make change—not just global change, but change in U.S. policy.” Maxwell Heilig, 17, told Wisconsin Examiner, “I don’t think it’s fair that people on top are making decisions for people who don’t have a say. That’s why I’m here.”

President Donald Trump has been consistently criticized for his administration’s poor environmental record. From weakening laws like the Endangered Species and Clean Air Acts, to his increased emphasis on the coal and mining industries. Trump also backed out of the landmark Paris Climate Accords, established under the Obama Administration. In a White House statement in 2017, Trump claimed the deal would burden the American people and industry.

Teen activist gather at climate march.
Teen activists gather at Milwaukee’s climate march. (Photo by Isiah Holmes)

Sixteen-year-old Sophia Kratochvil shared her thoughts as a school bus unloaded dozens of student reinforcements from the Milwaukee Public School district. The district worked with the Youth Climate Action Team to schedule the march as a field trip so students could participate without negative consequences.

“It’s real,” she said, “and it’s mine and a lot of people’s futures. And we’re not the ones making the bad decisions.” Kratochvil said she wants leaders in government to “show that they’re trying to do something about it instead of ignoring the issue, I guess. Or just acting like they care.”

A child sits near protest signs.
A small child sits near protest signs. (Photo by Isiah Holmes)

Christine Quinn, who came to the march with her four-year-old daughter, said, “I want her to grow up in a world that is not as chaotic and as harmed by climate change as it could be if we stay on our current track.”

Christine Quinn at Milwaukee Climate March
Christine Quinn and her young daughter. (Photo by Isiah Holmes)

Every single protester Wisconsin Examiner spoke with said they had noticed the climate changing right outside their door. “Oh definitely,” Heilig, Allison and their friend, 17- year-old Noah Cotton said in unison when asked if they have observed unusual weather. “This past summer was extremely hot for a good, like, three-week period—it was just not what we’re used to.”

Heilig said the students have had classroom discussions of record-breaking heat and extreme weather. In addition to wetter, more flood-prone weather, Wisconsin has also experienced intense heat waves.

“I’m not a meteorologist but I’m a life-long Wisconsinite,” said Quinn. “The headline today on Fox6 News’ website was ‘unseasonably warm weather today.’ Every year that my daughter has been alive has been the hottest year on record. So I think that it’s obvious that the climate is changing.”

 Suzy Clarkson-Holstion at Milwaukee Climate March
Suzy Clarkson-Holstein (Photo by Isiah Holmes)

Suzy Clarkson-Holstein, grandmother of two and a bird enthusiast, expressed concern about changing migration patterns for birds and insects. “The damage that we’ve been doing to the climate has gone on far too long, we haven’t been taking it seriously. And in the future people are going to wonder why we didn’t do anything when we could have.”

Swedish activist Greta Thunburg, 16, who kick-started the global climate march by hosting weekly strikes at her school, thanked the world for organizing. “This is only the beginning,” Thunburg tweeted. “Change is coming—like it or not.”

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Isiah Holmes
Isiah Holmes

Isiah Holmes is a journalist and videographer, and a lifelong resident of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. His writing has been featured in Urban Milwaukee, Isthmus, Milwaukee Stories, Milwaukee Neighborhood News Services, Pontiac Tribune, the Progressive Magazine, Al Jazeera, and other outlets.