Hello Evanston!

It’s been my great privilege to work, along with another ETHS parent and environmental activist, Becky Brodsky, to support a phenomenal group of young leaders in making this event happen. Please raise your hand if you are part of that team! I am deeply impressed with these students, and so inspired by them. Throughout this afternoon, they will be asking you to take action, and man, you’d better do it!

Thank you for coming out to join together as a community in the face of the climate crisis. There are over 1,000 similar strikes across the U.S., and 5,000 more across

the globe. We are part of a movement, the beginning of a cultural shift that is essential to tackling this monumental problem.

Evanston is an educated, affluent, equity-oriented community. We are uniquely positioned to take the lead on addressing the Climate Emergency our global society is facing. We believe in science. We care about people who are different from us, people in other parts of the world. We have the skills and the resources to help, and we must. And we must start right now.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says that we have less than 11 years to put the brakes on our carbon emissions before we drive off the cliff, before this problem becomes untenable. Less than 11 years. In 11 years my daughter, Bella, an ETHS senior, and her friends and classmates, will be 28. I got married at 28 and had my son Eli soon thereafter. But when I held my babies, I had no idea that we would be facing such a frightening future. When Bella and her peers are 28, and starting to think about the possibility of having a family, what will their world look like? It’s up to us.

Already, we see catastrophic results of the climate crisis: the Amazon is still burning, the Arctic was on fire this summer! Greenland held a funeral for its first glacier lost. The last five years have been the hottest on record, globally. July was the hottest month on record. Rain cyclones in the Midwest blasted farmers. Storm after storm, fire after fire. The media fails to report many of these catastrophes as climate-related, but science knows.  And so does Evanston.  

Already, climate-related flooding and drought are affecting food supply, and parts of India and Southern Africa are close to running out of water. Already, there’s political instability, which our military leaders will tell you is tied to this climate emergency. Already, drought has forced farmers in Syria and Honduras to leave their homes, flooding cities, creating unrest, and ultimately leading to a refugee crisis, which in turn has led to increased nationalism and intolerance around the world. And as bad as it is, projections are much worse.

Here in Evanston, it’s usually abstract. My family moved here when I was three, in 1969. But we did not have a “polar vortex” or “rain cyclones” or nearly the number of extreme heat days that we have now – all of which is projected to increase. In Evanston, we are looking at smaller beaches and fewer peaches, but the worst of this crisis feels far away.

My family had to replace our air conditioner this summer. It was a financial hit, but we were able to pay. Our kids don’t have asthma. We have health insurance. During the polar vortex, we could work from home and not lose pay or worry about childcare. This is not so for all Evanstonians. And here, we understand the climate crisis as an equity issue on the local level.  

On the global level, we know that the people who are causing this problem are not the same people who are suffering the consequences. Fossil fuel companies who hold power over our politicians are the ultimate culprits. We have allowed that to happen and we must stop it. But we also have to acknowledge that ultimately, consumption is what feeds this enormous deadly beast. Those of us with more and larger homes, cars, and stuff have higher carbon footprints. And people living in poverty, often in harm’s way, have the smallest.

Hurricane Dorian in the Bahamas, and before it Maria in Puerto Rico, are examples of flagrant environmental racism. If those islands were occupied predominantly by white people, we know the response would be much greater.

Have you even heard of Cyclone Idai?  Probably not, because it hit Southern Africa around the same time that Notre Dame caught fire. If we compare the response to the burning of Notre Dame to that of the burning of the Amazon, we know something is terribly wrong with our priorities.

Here in Evanston, we are not guilty of capital “D” denial, in order to further our own greed. But we are guilty of climate neglect. It’s a hard issue to face, and right now, in Evanston, it’s an easy one to ignore… but NOT ANYMORE. Our kids are here to wake us up.  

Many in our community are dealing with issues that can’t be ignored, worried about their kids getting shot or their parents deported. There are so many crises right now. This makes it even more critical that those of us who are in a position to do so, dedicate ourselves to tackling this issue.

I’ve heard some say it’s already too late. Don’t listen. Despair is a luxury we can’t afford. Hope is a moral imperative, and it’s grounded in truth. The solutions exist, and as of today, so does the will. Now, together, we roll up our sleeves and push forward. 

Ms. Rosner is an educator, activist and Climate Reality Leader, and a life-long Evanstonian.