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Call for ‘zero emissions, zero waste and zero regrets’ underscores climate change rally in Salt Lake City

Turnout for Utah’s part in global event tops 1,000

Young climate activists seeking action from local and state leaders to combat climate change rally at the Capitol in Salt Lake City on Friday, Sept. 20, 2019. Similar rallies took place across the country and world.
Young climate activists seeking action from local and state leaders to combat climate change rally at the Capitol in Salt Lake City on Friday, Sept. 20, 2019. Similar rallies took place across the country and world.
Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Elise Ireson stood quietly holding her sign at a climate change rally at the Utah Capitol on Friday afternoon, dwarfed by so many in the crowd avidly chanting slogans urging action to stave off a warming climate.

Her sign read: “Sorry I can’t clean my bedroom, I have to save the planet.”

Elise is just 9, but she wanted to lend her voice to a climate change action rally that played out Friday in 150 countries as a ramp up to the upcoming United Nations Climate Action Summit in New York.

“I plan on growing up and having a family of my own, and I don’t want them to have to go through climate change,” she said simply, explaining her presence on a rain-filled and chilly afternoon.

Lindsey Webb, 27, said she sees the effects of a warming climate playing out in the Salt Lake City area already with habitat loss, air quality challenges and wildfires.

“I see it in real time,” the writing teacher at the University of Utah said. “I wanted to support my students and students across the globe who are standing up for their future.”

The protests and rallies around the country and the world in large part grew out of the plaintive pleas of Swedish teen climate activist Greta Thunberg, who called on global leaders to take action in light of a United Nations’ panel report on climate change that predicts the Earth will warm by 1.5 degrees Celsius in 12 years if carbon emissions aren’t drastically reduced.

Thunberg traveled to Washington, D.C., from Sweden on a high-speed, emissions-free boat to testify in a joint hearing before a congressional subcommittee earlier this week and to visit the U.N. summit.

The nationwide school strikes across the United States on Friday morphed out of a protest she organized in front of Sweden’s parliament last year.

Maddie Gibson, a 22-year-old University of Utah student, saw Friday’s rally as an excellent platform to warn U.S. leaders their inaction is being watched closely.

Gibson, who is enrolled in the international studies program at the university, was holding a sign that said “Like the sea, we rise.”

“I care about the Earth and I want my kids to have a future,” she said, adding the biggest hurdle to overcome is educating leaders.

“The politicians have the wherewithal and technology, but they don’t take action,” she said. “The U.S. should be leading and we are not.”

Jacqueline Balderrama echoed those concerns, stressing the future of animals and people cannot be taken for granted.

“The world is important to me,” she said.

Attorney Justin Woodward, 26, turned out for the rally and blamed the inaction of politicians and energy producers over the last several decades that is now propelling urgent calls for action because of the prediction of the 12-year window.

“I think of my age and of having children and that 12-year deadline,” he said. “I hope our leaders pay attention. These are the type of problems only government can address.”

Carbon emissions should be eliminated, he added, acknowledging there will be enormous and unpleasant economic ramifications that could have been mitigated if action had been taken years ago.

Nate Hole was one of many speakers who addressed the crowd of 1,000 plus at the state Capitol, detailing a bevy of environmental nightmares already playing out because of warming temperatures.

“We must demand solutions,” he said. “You are no longer children ... you are leaders.”

Hole is a sustainability major at Weber State University who helped organize Friday’s events.

“It is time Utah took a stand,” he told the crowd. “We all fight for zero emissions, zero waste and and zero regrets.”

Activists were led by Fridays for Future SLC and Utah Youth Climate Strike. Supporters included the Center for Biological Diversity, Citizens Climate Lobby, Civil Riot, Democratic Socialists of America-Salt Lake, Earth Guardians, Elders Rising, Environmental Caucus, SLC Air Protectors, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, Sunrise Movement-Salt Lake City Hub, Uplift, Utah Chapter of the Sierra Club, Utah Youth for Environmental Solutions, Wasatch Rising Tide, and XR.