Hundreds of Evanston Township High School students walked out of class and marched to Fountain Square in downtown Evanston Friday afternoon in a protest supporting climate justice. During the gathering, students, residents and City Council members gave speeches demanding the city immediately devote funds to its Climate Action and Resilience Plan (CARP).
Local climate action group E-Town Sunrise organized the Oct. 22 event, at which students also spent time calling their council members and Mayor Daniel Biss to demand the city declare a local climate emergency and implement CARP.
“Folks who are actually going to do something about the crisis at hand will not stand by while [elected officials] fail us,” said Lily Aaron, the student leader of E-Town Sunrise and a member of the Citizens’ Greener Evanston board of directors. “We demand that the City of Evanston implement CARP and the rigorous climate policy that we deserve. Change is coming whether they like it or not.”
Several speakers also said that climate action and climate justice intersect with every issue that the city tackles, from housing to infrastructure to equity, which is why they saw incorporating Evanston’s climate plan into its other blueprints for the future as essential.
“Those of us who are set with air conditioning and health insurance and fresh water nearby are not so much going to be impacted by this crisis as those who have fewer resources,” said Rachel Rosner, the parent of an ETHS graduate and the President of Citizens’ Greener Evanston. “As a community that cares about justice and cares about people all over the world, we have got to lead the way. If Evanston can’t do it, who the hell can?”
Among other things, Evanston’s CARP lays out goals for becoming a zero-carbon and zero-waste community by 2050 and developing greener infrastructure like permeable parking lots, rain gardens and more.
Officials back action on CARP goals
Fifth Ward Council member Bobby Burns spoke at the rally and said he hopes the city will be able to dedicate millions of dollars in American Rescue Plan funding toward CARP projects.
“One of the things that I wish we would have done as a city is set aside a big pot of money that we could use to make sure that we could implement our climate action plan as soon as it was finished,” Burns said. “We will not move forward on climate action in the way we need to unless we get the city to commit the funds to do it.”
In an interview with the RoundTable, Mayor Biss recognized that the pandemic has delayed CARP implementation significantly, but he also acknowledged the need for Evanston to act fast to turn blueprints into physical infrastructure.
Other students who spoke to the crowd said their generation has to demand climate justice because they will be the people to feel the consequences of elected officials failing to act.
According to the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report published in August, the next 30 years of worsening climate catastrophes are already irreversible based on current carbon levels in the atmosphere. That investigation also declared a “code red” situation where the world must act immediately to prevent an imminent global climate disaster.
“We’re tired of having to constantly be in fear of what’s going to happen,” said Pablo Rodriguez-Cuevas, a Northwestern student who spoke to the crowd. “So if they’re not going to listen to us, we’ll vote for someone who does.”