Activists rally in Johnson City for climate justice 

Brandon Paykamian • Sep 27, 2019 at 5:56 PM

Activists and local community members gathered at King Commons Friday afternoon for a “Rally for Climate Justice” to coincide with the last day of a global climate strike, calling for environmental and political reforms to stop climate change.

Organizer Sidney Blevins said the goal of Friday’s rally was to begin building a larger local movement around stopping climate change through “holding our local leaders accountable,” pushing for comprehensive environmental reforms and through direct action. Blevins emphasized plans to get together weekly and “make the climate crisis a part of the daily conversation.”

“Instead of preaching to the choir, I want to make them preachers and (encourage them to) create their own choirs,” he said. “My main focus with this is to create militant action — weekly action.”

According to a 2018 United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, world governments have about 11 years to prevent some of the most extreme effects of rising global temperatures, which will include increased floods, droughts, extreme heat and degradation of entire ecosystems. To stop this, scientists say greenhouse gas emissions need to be reduced by about 45% or more. 

Blevins said he is concerned about the future of the planet his 5-year-old child and newborn baby will grow up on. He said getting others as concerned is key to building a movement against climate change. 

“We want to keep a constant churn of activism going on in this area,” he said. “Every individual not only has the ability but the responsibility to respond to this. ... Just because it’s not on the doorstep now doesn’t mean it won’t be in 10 years.

“The goal is to get people to treat it like it’s at our doorstep before it gets here. We should’ve been doing that already.”

Since the release of the UN climate report, a global grassroots movement has been spurred on by young organizers like 16-year-old Swedish student Greta Thunberg, a climate activist who spoke to the UN and Congress last week as part of a world tour shaming world leaders for what many consider insufficient action against climate change.

Thunberg has also been joined globally by several other young activists, including Artemisa Xakriabá, a member of the indigenous Xakriabá people of Brazil who recently called on the United States to take a leading role in the global movement against climate change.

At Friday’s rally, Citizens Climate Lobby volunteer Marat Moore passed out petitions urging U.S. Rep. Phil Roe, R-1st, to support the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act, which was introduced earlier this year with the aim of reducing emissions by 40% in its first 12 years through fees on carbon emissions at their point of extraction.

“This bill does more than everything else around,” she said of the legislation.

Blevins said he also supports plans like the Green New Deal, proposed by New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. That proposal aims to bolster renewable energy programs and other initiatives combating climate change by increasing taxes on some of the wealthiest Americans — as high as 70% on those making over $10 million annually. One major goal of the plan is for renewable energy to account for almost a third of the nation’s energy generation by 2050. 

UN climate scientists said about 100 global corporations were responsible for more than 70 percent of the effects of climate change since 1988, and Blevins said he believes Ocasio-Cortez’s legislation is the most comprehensive way to stop that trend.

“The main piece of legislation that I want to push for in daily conversation is the Green New Deal. It’s the only real, serious comprehensive plan,” he said. “We can’t be made to feel bad by not recycling every single thing in our house and producing the waste we do as regular consumers because they’ve been talking about those things since I was 5 years old — reduce, reuse, recycle — it didn’t solve anything.” 

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