FOND DU LAC – On Friday afternoon, residents stood on the corner Johnson and Main streets asking drivers to “honk for a pollution-free planet.”
More than 20 people gathered to encourage others — and the government — to take action on climate change. It’s the fourth rally residents have taken part in, said Diana Beck, leader of the local Citizens Climate Lobby, or CCL. The CCL is one group represented at the rally, with members of Sustain Fond du Lac and Open Circle Unitarian Universalists Fellowship also in attendance.
The group chose Fridays for their rallies to line up with Swedish teenage climate activist, Greta Thunberg’s #FridaysForFuture, Beck said. The Fridays For Future movement began in 2018 when Thunberg began skipping school to protest, and now encourages people around the world to take on climate change, according to the movement’s website.
Friday’s protest was also part of the international “Global Strike 4 Future,” a follow-up to September’s rally, which had more than 7.5 million people protesting around the world, according to CNN. Fond du Lac residents, too, protested then, when about 35 to 40 people — including teens — gathered, Beck said.
In Fond du Lac, the rallies first began at U.S. Rep. Glenn Grothman’s office on West Pioneer Road. However, as they felt they were making little progress, the protesters moved down to the street to the corner of Pioneer Road and Main Street and bring their message to the people.
Raising awareness and provoking questions
Standing with a sign that reads “engine exhaust damages earth,” Beck hopes to encourage awareness. Her sign garnered questions, however — particularly how she got to the rally if she didn’t drive. Her response: she has an electric car, walks as much as she can and bikes to minimize emissions.
Beck finds that people are struggling to take the emissions seriously, despite it being “dangerous.” Unlike the hole in the ozone layer, which attracted concerns due to its ability to be seen and damage skin, the emissions causing climate change are “more of a silent killer,” Beck said.
Global warming does not mean it’s getting hotter out, she said, but that the overall temperature is rising. When temperatures rise in the Arctic, it weakens the jet stream. As the jet stream ripples downwards, polar air brings “heavy rains and cooler-than-usual temperatures,” according to scientists. When it ripples upwards, it brings heat, which scientists believe was the cause of this past summer’s European heatwave, according to NBC News.
The participants are pushing for change by government at multiple levels, particularly at the state and federal level. Prior to the Clean Air Act of 1963, businesses weren’t changing practices, but did with regulations, Beck said.
“It’s actually governmental regulation that’s going to change things,” Beck said. “It wasn’t technology that saved the day. It was people getting out there and demanding it, and then government making them change.”
Making change happen
In Fond du Lac, the protesters are seeing some change happen. Several businesses, such as C.D. Smith, have made their headquarters more sustainable. There are plans for a community-wide solar panel project in which people could purchase a solar panel and receive an “energy return” for it, Beck said.
City government is also doing more than people may realize, she said, by buying solar panels and electric cars. There was also talk of electric buses at one point, but due to high costs, it was delayed, she said.
For individuals, Beck says people should talk to each other, as well as their officials and encourage change to be made, as well as vote for those who make it.
“It’s not a partisan issue. Republican homes are going to be flooded just as much as Democrat homes, or burn in the fires out West,” she said.
In addition, they can change their driving and eating habits. Rather than driving everywhere, people can use their cars more efficiently and walk and bike more, she said. She also encourages people to watch their waste. Americans waste 30 to 40% of their food according to the United States Department of Agriculture, food that takes energy to grow and transport, Beck said. Eating less meat can also reduce the amount of methane emissions.
A movement looking to grow
From those driving by, the protesters receive honks of support, as well as revving of engines in opposition. A couple of times, they’ve received blasts of “exhaust,” Beck said.
The group is ready to continue to protest throughout the winter, and looks to welcome those who wish to join the cause. At each event, Beck writes the contact information of those on the clipboard and adds them to an email list. In the future, she hopes to add more of the city’s youth.
“We’d like to see some more young people,” she said. “It’s their future, but meanwhile, it’s mostly us retired folks.”
Contact Sarah Razner at 920-907-7909 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @misssarahrazner.
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