climate activists

The Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Lafayette hosted a rally as part of the global climate strike on Friday, Sept. 20 in Downtown Lafayette.

Lafayette citizens of all ages gathered in Putnam Parc with signs and speeches, beginning at 6 p.m. local time, decisively later than the other strikes happening around the globe.

“I did not schedule it during the heat of the day because global warming has made it too hot to do that, hence why we started at 6,” President of the UU Fellowship Lafayette Jackie Phelps said.

“I wanted Lafayette to participate in this global climate action, there are over 600 actions taking place or that took place today all over the world, and I know not everybody can get to Baton Rouge or New Orleans where there were two actions … and I just wanted to make it available to people because I know there’s an interest,” Phelps continued.

Phelps added she was happy with the turnout of the rally, saying she has been in activism for a few years and that seeing new faces “tells (her) that the progressive movement in Lafayette’s growing, and that’s definitely a good thing.”

At one point during the rally, students in attendance got the opportunity to go up to the microphone and speak, and two University of Louisiana at Lafayette students accepted.

Laura McDonald, a senior biology major, and Teri Lewis, an environmental science major, are co-presidents of UL Lafayette’s biology society and spoke on why and how the biology society educates individuals on climate change.

“The main point of our club is to get students engaged in nature and to get them involved because a lot of us are being very passive citizens and people and community members,” McDonald said to the crowd.

After the rally, McDonald and Lewis said they were grateful for the opportunity to go and be involved.

They added that they felt there was still room for improvement in terms of advertising and turnout, but they thought it was good that so many people from different age groups were present.

UL Lafayette wasn’t the only school represented; a group of five students from Louisiana Tech University made the three-hour drive to the closest climate strike they could find.

Simon Boycott is one of the LA Tech students who drove out. Being an international student himself, he said they wanted to get a better idea as to what’s specifically happening in Louisiana as far as environmental activism goes, and take what they learned back to LA Tech and spread awareness.

Raised in the Kingdom of Eswatini in southern Africa, Boycott came to LA Tech to pursue his two-year master’s degree in environmental biology. He described how Louisiana could still do more to spread awareness of climate change:

“At least when I look at my part of the world and I look at things here, things could definitely still be better in America as far as putting climate change- making it more of an awareness thing … but at the end of the day, you guys are still, in some ways, (further) ahead than my part of the world is.”

Boycott added he was glad the strike happened, because, even though he’d only been here for a few months, he felt that Louisiana was not as aware of climate change as other parts of the country are, and he hadn’t expected to find any rallies happening here.

“I’m just glad that something has come of it, and that there are people that did come out, and that Louisiana was a part of that worldwide movement today to make our voices get heard,” Boycott said.

One of the speakers at the event, Martial Broussard, said he chose to attend and speak out of “concern, basically, for the Earth and the future of (his) grandkids.”

Broussard graduated from what is today UL Lafayette in 1967 with a bachelor’s degree in zoology and later got his master’s in psychology. One of the main issues he discussed at the rally was what he called an “attack on truth,” which he elaborated to mean a general refusal of peer-reviewed science.

“When the president of the United States says it’s a hoax, I mean the truth of the matter is evident: the ice is melting, the fires are raging,” Broussard said. “I don’t see how anybody can deny the facts.”

Broussard continued: “The other attack on truth comes principally from the corporations, the people who want to build pipelines, and the people who want to continue to drill. And what they tell us is that this is the way. This is the way we’ve always done it, this is the way we need to keep doing it, change is bad. ‘We’re giving you jobs.’ What the public might not see between the lines … is there are lots of jobs waiting in a green society, high-paying jobs.”

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