By Abigail Cloutier
Over 50 Youngstown community members and students joined together holding handmade cardboard signs protesting climate change at the climate strike rally in Wick Park on Friday, Sept. 20.
The rally was one of the first events in the nine-day “Big Climate Action Week,” including a litter cleanup on Wednesday, Sept. 25, organized by the Sunrise Movement of Youngstown.
Cries of unity filled the park, and cars passing on Fifth Avenue honked in solidarity as Cody Clark, a junior at Ursuline High School, gave a speech on the climate crisis.
“We need climate justice, and we won’t settle for anything less,” Clark said, shouting into a megaphone in front of the crowd.
Concerned citizens joined Clark in the movement and voiced their concerns to encourage others to vote, rally and help the cause.
Clark said the reason he is involved in climate activism is that it holds a personal meaning, inspiring him to make a difference in the community.
“The main reason I started getting involved in climate action was my little brother Carter,” said Clark. “He’s three, and in 11 years — the time climate scientists have given us to reverse the most catastrophic events of global warming — he’ll be 14, and he won’t be old enough to vote or make decisions.”
According to Clark, his passion for climate activism stemmed from a number of motivating activists.
“Greta Thunberg started my journey into leading school strikes,” said Clark. “But I was really inspired by the activists from the organization This is Zero Hour and specifically young activists and women of color who were leading this fight yet not getting the credit they deserve.”
Clark attended a summit held by Future Coalition, a nonprofit that networks youth-led organizations seeking to create societal change, where he met other youth activists and was inspired to bring change back to his hometown.
“There are a lot of goals that I have … I want to travel, I want to advocate, but this was put on hold for the climate crisis,” Clark said. “I wanted to feel like I was doing enough so I could feel safe dreaming past the 11-year mark.”
The rally was followed by a more intimate climate protest at the rock near Kilcawley Center on Youngstown State University’s campus.
Clark collaborated with Colleen McLean, associate geology professor at YSU, to stage a walk out of her Introduction to Environmental Science class.
“I have this amazing group of students, a class of 180 students, and they are so enthusiastic and so into learning about these things that I thought we should participate,” said McLean.
Students painted a climate temperature scale that illustrates the warming of the earth while Clark led the crowd in chants.
Annika McCabe, a senior at the Mahoning County Career and Technical Center, said she walked out of school to attend the rally.
“This speech was really powerful and incredible to hear,” said McCabe. “I called in to [MCCTC] and told them what I was doing, and I don’t know how they’ll react, but we will see.”
Many students held rallies across the country on Sept. 20 as protests partially inspired by Greta Thunberg were held in major cities.